Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Manchester City and Belgium ace Tessa Wullaert on the postponement of the Women’s European Championship and the uncertain fate of the WSL season

Posted on 16 April 2020 by Danny Clark
Photo courtesy of Tom Flathers

Belgium had recorded four wins from their first four games in their qualifying campaign for the 2021 Women’s European Championship.

Manchester City sat a point clear at the top of the WSL with just six games remaining of the season.

For Tessa Wullaert, a crucial player in both sides, life on the pitch couldn’t have been any better.

However, within the space of a month, the coronavirus pandemic has put an abrupt and indefinite halt to both teams’ growing momentum.

Euro postponement

The Women’s European Championship – set to be held in England during the summer of 2021 – will now instead be played in the summer of 2022.

This postponement followed the announcement that the Men’s European Championship and the Tokyo Olympics – both scheduled to take place this year – were to be pushed back until 2021.

While moving the Women’s Euros back to 2022 will prevent the clash of multiple tournaments, the decision understandably still carries some frustration.

Embed from Getty Images

Wullaert, who captains the Belgian side and has an impressive 42 goals in 86 appearances for her country, is someone who understands this sentiment more than most.

“My initial reaction was ‘oh my god it’s going to be boring to have to wait another two years,’” she admitted. “We lost our chance of the World Cup which was a huge disappointment.”

“So we’ve already had a summer without anything and now it’s going to be another two summers.”

Belgium sit joint top of their qualifying group alongside Switzerland, with both teams boasting 100% records after the opening four matches.

The two sides were due to face each other in a showdown clash on April 14, a match with huge significance for women’s football back in Belgium.

“The Belgian [Football Association] did a lot of media work because we wanted to set a record crowd,” explained Wullaert. We wanted to sell out the stadium which was 10,000 fans and for us that’s big.”

“We really worked hard towards that game, but now everything is postponed.”

WSL uncertainty

“It’s the same in the league with City,” Wullaert said. We’re just training and we don’t even know when we will restart the season.

“I just don’t like doing stuff without knowing what for, and that’s the case right now.”

Embed from Getty Images

However, Wullaert revealed that clubs in the WSL have all been in contact and remain unanimously determined to finish the season by completing all remaining games.

“We had an online meeting last week and they said every team wants to continue the league and finish it properly,” she explained.

“I’m currently in Belgium now so whenever I get the green light to move back to England again and the league looks set to restart, I will.”

Back in Belgium, the men’s Pro League looks set to become the first major European league to be officially cancelled because of coronavirus.

Club Brugge, who sit in first place, will be declared champions with the current league table set to stand.

Manchester City currently sit top of the WSL table, with Chelsea a point behind in second and Arsenal three points further back in third.

However, with both London sides having a game in hand, Wullaert admits that if the WSL were to finish with the current standings, crowning a champion would be problematic.

“We really want to be champions, but we really want to be champions in an honest way, and that’s why everyone wants to finish the league properly.”

Embed from Getty Images

It remains to be seen just how badly affected women’s football will be from coronavirus.

However, one thing’s for sure – Tessa Wullaert will be ready, and raring to target domestic and international success once action resumes.