ALTHOUGH men have hijacked the game in the past 150 years or so women have actually been playing football for just as long.
The first recorded women’s match was in March 1895 in England when a northern XI beat a southern team 7-1.
Despite this start it took nearly 100 years for the women’s game to get its own world cup and it was on this day in 1991 when the USA team beat Norway to win the first ever women’s tournament.
In the intervening 96 years between the first recorded match and the first world cup it is fair the say the women’s game had more ups and downs than Pete Docherty on a week-long bender.
On Boxing Day 1921 53,000 people turned up to watch leading women’s team Dick Kerr’s Ladies from Preston beat rivals St Helens’ Ladies 4-0.
Obviously scared stiff of the challenge to the men’s game by the large attendance (which is more than double what Premier League sides such as Wigan, Bolton and Fulham get), the FA reacted by banning women from playing on football league grounds.
The FA said: “Complaints have been made as to football being played by women, the council feel impelled to express their strong opinion that the game of football is quite undesirable for females and ought not to be encouraged.” Thanks for that Mr Chomondly-Warner.
The nationwide equivalent of saying, ‘it’s our ball and you can’t play with it,’ had the desired effect and although women continued to play, interest in the women’s game dwindled severely as the men’s game flourished.
It was not until 1971 that the FA ban was lifted and the female game began to develop again. By the late 1980s FIFA president Joao Havelange was keen on it and he was the driving force behind the new women’s world cup.
The tournament was held in China with 12 teams competing and the American’s conquered all before them, sailing through to the final with ease, and scoring 23 goals in the process.
There, watched by 65,000 fans in Guangshou’s Tianhe Stadium they would meet Norway who held the Yanks at 1-1 going into the final minutes of normal time.
With extra time and penalties looming USA striker Michelle Akers stepped up to the plate when she intercepted a back pass from Norway’s Tina Svensson and fired the ball past Reidun Seth in goal to win the trophy for Uncle (Auntie?) Sam(antha?).
Since then the competition has gone from strength to strength and has been held a further four times with more and more people around the world tuning in to watch.
Just to show that equality hasn’t quite taken over the world of football entirely good old Sepp Blatter risked the ire of women players everywhere when he famously suggested ladies should wear tighter shorts when playing to generate more interest. Ahh the sexist old bastard. Still, it’s a better idea than half the crap he comes out with about using penalties to decide every game, or all his meddling with the offside rule.
Here’s a look at those all American gals strutting their soccer skills – look out for a bit of shirt-related celebration that would surely have had Blatter applauding.