For many years women’s football was frowned upon around the globe. It has also over the years suffered terribly because of outdated stereotypical views often propagated by male players. Such outdated ill-informed comments as it is unfeminine, playing will harm a woman’s reproductive organs, women will be never be recognized as proper athletes, and their appeal will never guarantee financially viable television audiences.
The times have definitely changed with women’s football in Australia one of the fastest growing areas of the game with participation rates rising in recent years by 51%.
One of the first recorded games of women’s football took place in August 1917. A tournament was organized for female munitions workers’ teams in North-East England. The “Tyne Wear & Tees Alfred Wood Munition Girls Cup,” was the official name, but it is more fondly remembered as “The Munitionettes’ Cup.” The first winners of the trophy were Blyth Spartans, who defeated Bolckow, Vaughan 5-0 in a replayed final tie at Middlesbrough on 18 May 1918. The tournament ran for two years until the end of the war. The ladies of Palmer’s shipyard in Jarrow, winning on this occasion.
The English Football Association banned women’s teams on 5 December 1921, so in the words of Aretha Franklin the sisters did it for themselves, forming the English Ladies’ Football Association. The first President was however a man, Len Bridgett. Twenty four teams entered the first competition in the spring of 1922. The inaugural winners were Stoke Ladies who beat Doncaster and Bentley Ladies 3-1 on 24 June 1922.
Dick, Kerr & Co in Preston, owned by two Scots W.B. Dick and John Kerr allowed their female staff to play football and soon they were drawing huge crowds and in 1917 10,000 came to Deepdale to watch them play. The girls were paid 10 shillings a game to cover expenses.
In 1920 they played the first Women’s international, four games against France. They won the first game in the four match series 2-0, the second 5-2, drew the third 1-1 and lost the fourth 2-1. They must have played a good passing game with the ball on the deck, as the women wore striped hays to protect their hair!
Following the ban from the FA they toured America and Canada helping give the game a profile in both of these countries.
In 1937 they played Edinburgh Ladies in the “Championship of Great Britain and the World”. Edinburgh Ladies won a year later Dick, Kerr’s Ladies F.C, in 1938. During its history the team played 828 games, winning 758, drawing 46, and losing 24.
The FA finally recognized women’s football but only in July 1971, 50 years after they had banned the game.
Unofficial women’s European tournaments for national teams were held in Italy in 1969 and 1979 and won by Italy and Denmark. It was not until 1982 when the first UEFA European Competition for Representative Women’s Teams was launched. Sweden won the 1984 finals, and the cumbersome name of the tournament changed to the UEFA Women’s Championship. Nowadays it is commonly referred to as the Women’s Euro.
The establishment of the Women’s World Cup, did not come until 1991despite several unofficial world tournaments taking place in 70s and 80s. Australia’s team was formed as result of one of these tournaments in Taiwan in 1978. China Hosted the first Women’s World Cup in November 1991 which the USA won, Australia missed out on the 1991 tournament on goal difference to New Zealand. Come 1994 they made sure they qualified and took part in their first World Cup Finals.
The third Cup, held in the USA in 1999, drew worldwide television interest and the final was played in front of a record-setting 90,000 crowd. The USA won 5-4 on penalties against China. 2011 host Germany has won the last two tournaments.
Amazingly it was not until 1996 that Women’s Football was admitted into the Olympic Games. Unlike the men the national women’s teams do not have restrictions due to professionalism or age; meaning that the tournament sees the best teams of the previous year’s World Cup plus the hosts participate.
There is a lot to be said but for now I will leave you with a few links of some stories on the world wide web:
- Spartacus educational
- Wikipedia article on women’s association football
- Soccer Geek’s list of famous female footballers
- A brief history by The FA