Women and Football have a long history. In fact, women may have been playing football for as long as the game has existed. Evidence shows that an ancient version of the game “Tsu Chu” was played by women during the Han Dyansty (25-220 CE). The first match recorded in more recent times took place in 1892 in Glasgow and 1895 in England. The most well documented early European team was founded in England in 1894 and was named the British Ladies Football Club. It was during the First World War that women’s football gained popularity, when employment in the heavy industry spurred the growth of the game. It had been much the same for men fifty years earlier. Despite being more popular than some men’s football events women’s football in England suffered a blow in 1921 when the Football Association outlawed the playing of the game on Association member’s pitches, on the grounds that the game as played by women was distasteful.
THE REVIVAL OF THE WOMEN’S GAME
The English Women’s FA was formed in 1969 as a result of the increased interest generated by the 1966 World cup and the FA’s ban on matches being played on member’s grounds was finally lifted in 1971. In the same year , UEFA recommended that the women’s game should be taken under the control of the national associations in each country. During the 1970’s , Italy became the first country with professional women football players on a part time basis. In 1985, the United States national soccer team was formed and in 1989, Japan became the first country to have a semi-professional women’s football league; the L-League is still in existence today.
WOMEN’S FOOTBALL IN THE 21st CENTURY
Women’s football is growing both in popularity and participation in the 21st century. From the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament held in 1991 to the 1.35 million attendance at the 2015 World Cup in Canada. Visibility and support of women’s professional football has increased manifold around the globe.
Approximately 32 million women and girls are playing football across the world and this number might increase to 45 million by 2020.
Women’s participation is growing in football at a rapid pace, whether it is Afghanistan or Bhutan or any of the African nations. Role models are emerging in women’s football and that is attracting girls into football. The number of domestic leagues in women’s football has grown 100% in last five years. Countries like Maldives, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have also initiated women’s leagues, England has a semi-pro league and clubs have started to focus more and more into women’s football. It is reported that the Indian Women’s National League will be inaugurated from October this year. Women are taking up coaching, refereeing, administration and other support staff roles in football. The number of development programmes across the world has significantly increased in the last five years. Governing bodies have substantially increased their focus towards women’s football and that has resulted in more and more funds flowing its development. The commercial value of women’s football will grow significantly in the next few years and thus more women players will be able to get a decent earning out of football in the coming years. The media interest is picking up in women’s football and broadcasters are also giving more air time to women’s football.
DEVELOPMENT OF WOMEN’S FOOTBALL
Each passing year the overall standard of women’s football is rising, the level of skills and game plan exhibited by the teams in each passing World Cup is on the rise and that is attracting fans and television viewership into women’s football.
In 2014 Wembley Stadium saw 55000 spectator for England and Germany friendly and 2012 Olympics women’s football match between Great Britain and Brazil saw 80000 spectators in Wembley which was higher than the men’s match
China making it to the Rio Olympics 2016 means a big boost to women’s football in China, which is a significant achievement by the most populated country in the world.
Women’s Football and its Social Significance
Developments of women’s football and initiatives in women’s football have a great social significance and football is a great example, which promotes gender equality, woman empowerment, developing women leaders and fighting discrimination etc. The upcoming FIFA World Women’s Club competition will also positively influence development of women’s football. Women’s football has the potential to initiate a national team league on a continental basis and then ultimately culminating into world women’s league, which would be a great initiative to give further major impetus to women’s football at a global level. It is estimated that by 2025, women’s football would command significant airtime and commercial revenue from sponsorship and broadcasting rights across the world as women’s football will be an attractive proposition for market to engage and communicate directly with the target audience. There will be multiple properties in women’s football, which would attract significant attention from all across the market. More and more opportunities have to be created for women in football through various new competitions, improving facilities and resources.
FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP
In 1988 – 58 years after the first men’s FIFA World Cup tournament in 1930, FIFA hosted an invitational in China as a test to see if a global women’s World cup was feasible. The competition was deemed a success and on 30th June FIFA approved the establishment of an official World Cup. The seven FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments have been won by four different national team namely United States which has won the tournament the most number of time (3) Germany (2) Norway (1) and Japan (1). The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 in Canada was a huge success and the viewership record was mind blowing as 25.4 million US viewers watched USA beating Japan 5-2 on the 6th of June which was the biggest audience ever for a women’s football match. Japan made Asia proud by winning the 2011 Women’s World cup, becoming the first Asian side to win the World Cup. The English team reaching the semi-finals of the World cup in 2015 was another example of growth in women’s football in Europe, otherwise it was Norway, Sweden and Germany who were the dominant force in women’s football. Now France, England, Netherlands and other teams from Europe are fast developing. Jordan will be hosting the U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2016 will be another example of women’s football growing across the world.
Jordan will become the first Middle East country to host the Women’s World Cup
THE BEST IN WOMEN’S FOOTBALL
Like Ronaldo and Messi, women’s football has its own icons who have impressed the world with their dazzling skills on the pitch. The likes of Marta (Brazil), Abby Wambach( USA), Hope Solo (USA), Carli Lloyd (USA), Nadine Angerer (Germany), Nadine Kebler (Germany), Homare Sawa ( Japan) are some the names that have showcased some of the best women’s football in the world.
Marta is the all time leading scorer of the world cup and also has been awarded the FIFA World player of the Year the most number of times (5). She is regarded as the best female player of all time.
Abby Wambach is a two time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women’s World Cup champion. A six time winner of the U.S Soccer Athlete of the Year award, she is also the current highest all time goal scorer for the national team and holds the world record for most international goals (184). Wambach became the first American women to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2012 in ten years. The future for women’s football looks bright as many countries in the world are taking the step to encourage and promote women’s football. Some countries are already established while some are still working on it. There are a lot of girls and women in the world who are not even allowed to dream of a future like this as they are restricted by certain social evil, and football is an excellent way to promote education and pass on the message to those girls.