Behind The Badge is a series by COPA90 exploring football’s unique crests. These Football Times teamed up with their COPA Collective partners to tell the story behind each one.
European champions. World Cup finalists. The Netherlands national team is really making waves in the women’s game. Their squads boast some of the most talented players on the planet, from Sari van Veenendaal in goal to Vivienne Miedema in attack, but they’re not just inspiring a generation with their performances on the pitch. The rebranding of the team, headed by the switch in crest, has changed their game and coincided with success on the global stage.
The Netherlands took part in their first international women’s match in 1971 against France but didn’t qualify for a major tournament until Euro 2009. The team operated under the umbrella of the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB), using their lion-inspired logo just like the men’s team.
The lion had been the symbol of all national teams since the first men’s international match against Belgium in 1907, with the mammal being the country’s national and royal animal. However, with the Women’s European Championship set to be held on Dutch soil in 2017, the KNVB went down a different route.
The badge for the women’s team was altered, with designers Wieden+Kennedy turning the lion into a lioness, which makes a lot of sense. Looking back on it, it seems odd that the women’s team would continue to play with a male lion on their chest.
In the new crest, the lion’s mane and shaggy tail were dropped in favour of a fierce-looking lioness, with many of the other details, such as pose, remaining. Now the women’s team had the logo to match their Leeuwinnen – Lionesses – nickname. “A lioness is a symbol of power, strength, elegance and agility. It’s a tribute to how they play and celebrates the history of the team as well as the future,” creative director Craig Williams stated.
However, few clubs and countries have adopted this approach, especially with lions. Lyon, Chelsea and Aston Villa’s women’s teams all compete with the badges of their male counterparts, complete with male lions. Despite pushing the Lionesses to the top of the international scene, the FA still persist on having the team wear the Three Lions on their shirts. Following the Dutch model wouldn’t be a bad idea. After all, it’s had some pretty good results.
The new badge brought immediate success in 2017 with European glory. In the curtain-raiser of their home tournament, the Oranje Leeuwinnen beat Norway, who are also one of those to still have male lions on their crest, before going on to top their group with a perfect record.
More Scandinavian opposition in the form of Sweden were dispatched in the quarter-finals before England’s Lionesses were no match for Miedema and co. in the last four. Goals from Miedema, Lieke Martens and Sherida Splitse in the final against Denmark confirmed an inaugural major international crown for the Netherlands in Enschede.
That winning streak was maintained in France two years later, with Cameroon, the Indomitable Lionesses, one of those to fall foul of a flying Dutch team as they made their way to their first World Cup final at just their second attempt.
The Netherlands hadn’t even qualified for the tournament when Japan were crowned world champions in 2011 but a late Martens penalty ensured the previous runners-up would be heading home at the last 16 stage. Only the imperious United States could stop the Sarina Wiegman’s sensational side in the showpiece in Lyon as the orange army of support finally stopped singing. Actually, no, they didn’t, even after such a disappointing defeat.
The Netherlands will be in England at Euro 2022, or Euro 2021 depending on UEFA’s pedantic naming rights, and we can all marvel a bit more about them then. After all, out of every nation in Europe, they’re leading the way in innovation and art, both on and off the pitch.
By Billy Munday @billymunday08
Art by Tom Griffiths @ARTomGriffiths