Women-run Viktoria Berlin's 'crazy' Bundesliga bid ahead of schedule

Women-run Viktoria Berlin's 'crazy' Bundesliga bid ahead of schedule

© AFP 2022
June 9, 2023 at 10:41 PM
Germany's two-time World Cup winner Ariane Hingst
Germany's two-time World Cup winner Ariane Hingst. Photo: CARMEN JASPERSEN / DPA/AFP
Source: AFP

When two-time World Cup winner Ariane Hingst set about creating a "new era" in women's football with Viktoria Berlin, the ambitious former midfielder "didn't dream things would go uphill so quickly".

The 43-year old is one of six female investors behind the third-division side in Germany's Frauen Bundesliga, the first women-run, women-owned club in the top German leagues.

Inspired by Los Angeles' Angel City FC, the women-run team led by Hollywood star Natalie Portman, Viktoria Berlin relaunched in 2022, with a plan to "make it to the Bundesliga within five years".

On Sunday, Viktoria Berlin face off against Hamburg in the first leg of a two-part tie, with the winner moving up to the second division -- putting the promotion bid well ahead of schedule.

Hingst told AFP subsidiary SID the project seeks to "change the perspective on women in football and in sport, while enabling equal opportunities".

That the club could reach the second division just a year after the takeover would be a major step in making the ambitious plan a reality.

Hingst said her side had played "two really awesome games" to end the season, giving them the chance for a shot at promotion.

"The tension is rising of course, but that's normal."

'Crazy enough'

Hingst's confidence and ambition for Viktoria Berlin is perhaps not surprising considering she is among the most decorated players in German football history.

Usually deployed as a defensive midfielder but also finding herself in defence, Hingst won four European Championships, two World Cups and three Olympic bronze medals with Germany.

At club level, Hingst won several German Cups and Bundesliga titles, along with the Champions League title with Turbine Potsdam in 2005.

Using Angel City as a model, a group of women investors came together, eventually taking over the club in 2022.

"In Viktoria Berlin, we found a club that was just crazy enough to follow us on our way," Hingst laughed.

The number of investors has now grown to 80, with women from across the sports, business and entertainment world supporting the project.

Besides making an impact in women's sport, the team also fills a void in the German capital, which has been without a team in the top division for more than a decade.

An early powerhouse of German football, Hingst's Turbine Potsdam, located half an hour from Berlin, were relegated at the end of the 2022-23 season.

Winning six titles in nine years from 2004 to 2012, Turbine lost its place at the top of women's football to the cashed-up female divisions of Bundesliga sides Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg, who have shared every title since 2013.

With rebel upstarts Union Berlin making huge strides in the men's game, bringing Champions League football to the German capital for the first time since 2000 while rivals Hertha were relegated, Viktoria's desire to challenge the status quo is fitting.

A 'success story'

The Berlin-born Hingst said the team "is already a success story".

Winning 23 of their 26 games this season, Viktoria Berlin finished top of the third division regional league table.

Despite placing first, they need to beat Hamburg in the two-legged tie to advance.

A "proud" Hingst said the side has already had a "terrific season", explaining she has no doubt the project will continue in earnest even with a loss against Hamburg.

"The project will continue anyway. We are well positioned for both outcomes."

© AFP 2022 photo
© AFP 2022