Female Footballers in the 21st Century

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Well, actually Woman’s Football, is the fastest growing sport of modern times and has now replaced Netball as the number one sport amongst females. The growth in Woman’s Football has seen major competitions being launched at both National and International levels. Yes, they play on full side pitches and yes they understand and play the off side rule. OK, so most women may not be able to ‘bend it like Beckham’ from the half way line, but what they lack in strength, they more than make up for in skill.

When did it begin? The first ever Woman’s Football match anywhere in the world was recorded in 1895 in North London and at that time it was thought the game would progress at the same level and rate as the men’s. However, the 1st World War saw woman keeping the home fires burning and sports took a back seat. After the war ended, woman started to take an interest in Football again but the FA was very concerned about their role in the game, so much so, that in 1921, after concerns about charitable monies, the FA actually banned woman from playing Football. This ban remained in place until 1969 when the Ladies’ Football Association of Great Britain was formed which was quickly changed to Woman’s FA. Although the ban was lifted, it was 1971 before the FA recognized the W.F.A and the first national team for England played Scotland winning 3 –2.

British Teams Although most of the Woman Footballers are not paid for their skills, some have turned semi-professional with the hope of turning professional soon. The English Premier league consists of teams from Arsenal, Charlton Athletics and Everton woman teams. Blackburn Rovers, Liverpool and Tranmere Rovers compete in the Northern Division, while Watford, Portsmouth and Cardiff City compete in the Southern Division. With players like Alex Scott, Rachel Yankey and Kelly Smith playing for Arsenal, Sue Smith for Leeds and Jo Potter and Casey Stoney from Charlton Athletics, England have a very strong team who complete well at International level.

International European teams are very strong and regularly compete to a very high standard.
In January 2005 the UEFA Cup took place between Germany and Norway with Germany winning 3 – 1. The Norway woman’s team can be seen regularly training at the Football academy at La Manga Resort as; perhaps because of the weather in Norway, Spain is their training camp. America has a very strong International team and Mia Hamm, who is probably the most famous Female Footballer internationally, was named player of the year in 2007 at the Woman’s World Cup.

Since the first Women’s World Cup in 1991, which was won by the USA, youth tournaments have also been added. Events include Under 20’s Woman’s World Cup which was played in 2008 in Chile and won by the USA. In addition the under 17’s also played in a World Championship held in New Zealand in 2008 and was won by North Korean.

The European Championship will be held in Finland in 2009 and, despite England losing to Spain 2-1 in the qualifier rounds, both England and Spain secured places. Arsenal won their fifth straight Premier League title before completing the double with a 4-1 victory over Leeds United. England’s U17’s reached the semi-finals of the European Championship securing them a place in the World Championships to be held in New Zealand in October.

Woman Footballers may not be paid the same as the men yet and they may not be able to draw such big crowds as the men yet but watch out. They are just as fit, dedicated and skilled as the men and in less than twenty years, the progress has been outstanding which is why Football is the fastest growing sport for woman.

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