The history of women's football
German Female National Football Team just before their first international match 1982 against Switzerland
(© dpa - Sportreport)
Sixty-one years after fast-footed men got the chance show off their skills to a worldwide audience, women entered the field for their first World CupGames. Now, 20 years later, they will play in their sixth championship, a long-awaited opportunity after what has been a long journey to get off the sideline.
Historians will argue over when women’s football really began. Some will point to art from the Han Dynasty in 200 CE, which depicts two women kicking a ball. During the Middle Ages, there are stories of French women playing side by side with their husbands and a female annual football-like competition in Scotland.
What we do know is women have been playing the sport for more than a century. In 1881, there was a ‘Ladies’ Football tournament’ between England and Scotland. The Scottish Football Association’s first official recorded women’s football game took place in 1892 and the English Football Association dates its first women’s game to 1895. During this time, teams like the Cumbrian Munitionettes of England (comprised of female munition workers) formed and fans started packing the stands. Although, or perhaps because, womens’ football quickly escalated in popularity, with the size of its fan base rivaling that of the mens’ teams in the 1920’s, the male-based Football Association banned women from using their pitches in 1921.
(© picture-alliance / GES-Sportfoto)
The ban, however, didn’t volley these women off the field. That same year, they formed the English Ladies’ Football Association and played their first competition in 1922. It took several decades though for the female football competitions to officially go international and in 1982 the first European Competition For Representative Women's Teams (UEFA) was launched. The 1984 finals were won by Sweden and Norway took home the trophy in 1987. Since then, Germany has dominated this competition and won seven out of eight tournaments.
Professional womens’ football is making waves worldwide, with national teams in 49 countries of various sizes and locations íncluding Germany, United States, Argentina, Iran, Morocco, Myanmar, Iceland, Faroe Islands and Estonia. While some national teams find more skepticism from their male counterparts than others, women continue to fight for the right to professionally play the world’s most enthusiastically supported sport.
And, they are succeeding. Women finally got their own FIFA World Cup in 1991. The first games were held in the People’s Republic of China, where the U.S.A. placed first. During the 1999 Womens’ World Cup in Los Angeles, more than 90,000 fans showed up – a world record for a womens’ sporting event. Germany has taken home the trophy after the last two championships and in July they will get the chance to defend their title on their own turf.