“Any gamer can be a Wonder Woman”: How Tigres UANL grew its fan base | Sports

Welcome to Moving the Goalposts, the Guardian’s free women’s football newsletter. Here is an excerpt from this week’s issue. To get the full version once a week, just enter your email address below:

The United States has been at the forefront of women’s football for many years. USA have won four out of eight World Cups and their domestic game has always been regarded as one of the premier women’s leagues in the world.

Recently, however, Canada (2020 Olympic Games winners after beating America in the semifinals) and England (Euro 2022 winners and beating the USA in a friendly in October) have closed the gap. The NWSL is highly competitive [the women’s league in the US] in terms of being the best and most respected in the world, with the Women’s Super League making great strides in England.

And now there is another competitor on the scene: Mexico’s and specifically Tigres UANL. They recently announced their 2-0 win over América in the final of Apertura 2022 on November 15, giving them the largest TV audience for a women’s game in North America.

According to the club, 2.88 million viewers watched on Mexican television. The game also had more than 700,000 views on Facebook Live and most importantly, more than 41,000 spectators at the stadium. It continues a trend as the club attracts a huge fan base and thrives on it. The league title was their fifth and they reached eight of the ten finals in the competition’s history.

Tigres Femenil fans cheer on their team during the last Apertura final against America.
Tigres Femenil fans cheer on their team during the last Apertura final against America. Photo: Azael Rodríguez/Getty Images

“It’s like fulfilling a dream we had as kids,” says club captain Liliana Mercado. She has been with Tigres since 2017 and has played 202 games in the Yellow and Blue jersey, the most games in team and league history. “Women’s football is here to stay. We are fortunate to live in a time when it is possible to set these records in our country.”

How did Tigre do that? There is no single, easy answer – or formula for others to follow – as a number of factors have contributed. Her nickname is the Amazon and for the past five years, they’ve been inseparable from the superheroine Wonder Woman, herself an Amazonian and one of the most famous symbols of girl power in existence.

This has evolved into a two year partnership between the Liga MX team and Warner Bros as part of their identity building. “Each of our players is a potential Wonder Woman,” said club president Mauricio Culebro.

Tigres UANL Feminil comes to the second leg of the 2022 Apertura final against America.
Tigres UANL Feminil comes to the second leg of the 2022 Apertura final against America. Photo: Jam Media/Getty Images

Another strategy is to use the club’s already large following on social media to promote its games and attract fans to the stadium. As Culebro says, in order to improve their game, they had to provide the female players with an “equal playing field” in relation to the men’s team. “We give them the same presence as the men. We promote games in a variety of ways and also use interactions between the men’s and women’s teams,” he says. “We have to remember that we have nine of the top ten attendances in Liga MX.”

The club have also worked to bring a more international flavor to the Tigres Femenil squad. The team is led by former Canada international Carmelina Moscato, who became the first foreign coach and first female coach to win the championship in her freshman year. “We have a young player called Mia Fishel from the USA who came here rather than play in the NWSL,” says Culebro.

“And we have Uchenna Kanu, a Nigeria international striker who fits the team perfectly, and Natalia Gaitán, the captain of the Colombia national team. That shows how attractive our league already is.”

In August, the club announced a partnership with Angel City FC to develop women’s football in the United States and Mexico and played a friendly against them, with the NWSL side winning 1-0. The aim is to strengthen the Tigres name in the USA over the next few years. “We know that [the interest in women’s football] in the US is one of the strongest in the world. That’s why we’re moving closer together – to learn from the best how to develop women’s football,” says Culebro.

Carmelina Moscato, coach of Tigres UANL Femenil, talks to the Uchenna canoe before the game against América.
Carmelina Moscato, coach of Tigres UANL Femenil, talks to the Uchenna canoe before the game against América. Photo: Azael Rodríguez/Getty Images

The Tigres president also emphasizes the importance of choosing the right players and the best structure for his team. “When Liga MX Femenil started, Tigres built a competitive team to compete for the title and it inspired other teams to do the same,” he says. “As a result, our league is now stronger, more competitive and part of the development of young players going pro. Our national team now also has a large number of players from the league.”

Strengthening women’s football in Mexico is the top priority for the players. That’s why not much has changed in the founding of the team in the past five years. “Tigres put together a team early on with a solid base of players who are still important and have been for the first five years,” says Mercado.

Alongside Mercado, Belén Cruz, Fernanda Elizondo, Lizbeth Ovalle, Nancy Antonio, Natalia Villarreal, Nayeli Rangel and Ofelia Solís have been there from the start and are proud to see the fruits of their labor. “It’s important for us to know that people identify with this team,” she says. “This team undoubtedly sets the tone for Mexican football.”

conversation topics

#One Love: Former England international Alex Scott attracted a lot of attention by wearing a OneLove armband during the BBC broadcast of the England men’s debut at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The expert intervened after the FA and other FAs decided not to wear the piece for fear of sporting sanctions from Fifa.

Alex Scott wears the One Love armband while working for the BBC during Monday's World Cup coverage from Qatar.
Alex Scott wears the One Love armband while working for the BBC during Monday’s World Cup coverage from Qatar. Photo: BBC

Primera Iberdrola: Barcelona returned from the international break and scored as many goals as possible against Alavés. The scoreboard showed an impressive 8-0 after the final whistle, giving high hopes for Thursday’s game against FC Bayern Munich in the Women’s Champions League.

Women’s Championship: Sheffield United broke the previous Women’s Championship attendance record with 11,137 spectators for their game against leaders London City Lionesses at Bramall Lane on Sunday – almost doubling the previous record of 5,752 set by Bristol City last season.

quote of the week

“It is unacceptable to wait any length of time to see a gynecologist on the NHS in this country. And I have to say this: if a man was suffering from these conditions, there would be no chance that you would wait any longer,” said the Chelsea manager. Emma Hayeson the state of healthcare for women in the NHS after their emergency hysterectomy.

look at that noble conclusion of Palmeiras’ Byanca Brasil in the derby against Sao Paulo. The striker used the goalkeeper’s position to score the winning goal and propel her team through to the semifinals. It doesn’t get much better.

Do you have a question for our authors – or would you like to suggest a topic? Get in touch by emailing [email protected] or commenting below.


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