A Beautiful Game: International Perspectives on Women's Football

By Jean Williams | Go to book overview

Conclusion
To Play or Not to Play

The much talked of football match between British Ladies has been played, and the
world has not moved an inch out of its orbit… There was an enormous gathering,
the number in which has been estimated variously at from seven to twenty thousand.
the true number probably approached ten thousand the procession along Park-Rood
to Nightingale-lane was close to continuous… As a display of football it was exe-
crable… as a public exhibition to which anyone is admitted on payment of a shilling
nothing is more degrading. Ignorance as to the insults to which they would expose them-
selves may be a lame excuse for Saturday’s proceedings, but it is difficult to believe that
any one of those who took part in them would again submit herself to the coarse and rib-
ald remarks about their figure and their costumes and their movements which must have
reached their ears from the time they entered the field to the time they left it.1

Mariel Margaret Hamm boasts 242 international caps and 144 international goals. Nike
are reported to pay her $1m a year, with the company selling four times as many No. 9
Hamm replica shirts as those of other players, male or female. Other endorsements are
thought to double Hamm’s income, but in many ways she eschews the spotlight. She
recently made the cover of Sports Illustrated under the headline: The Reluctant Super-
star. ‘Everybody in our society wants the female sports figure to be glamorous, gorgeous
and smiling every minute,’ says Heinrichs. ‘Let’s value the qualities Mia has: she’s intel-
ligent, articulate and humble. She has become the complete player.’2

Writing ten years after the first excerpt, Gibson and Pickford in Association Football and the Men Who Made It, with all the benefit of a decade of hindsight, announced that ‘Lady Footballers… subsequently became as extinct as the dodo so far as the Metropolis was concerned.’ Fortunately, with the assistance of a longer and less parochial view, these rumours have proven premature. Michael Oriard, in his study of American Football (or ‘gridiron’) has identified women playing this code as early as 1895.3 As has been noted, there are brief references to Australian Rules the same year as the British Ladies Football Club played at Crouch End and still more to rugby. The PR China shows a much longer history of women participating in football of various kinds. Real Madrid sent its first ‘socia’ card to a woman in 1926, there were women’s teams in Czechoslovakia since the 1930s, physical education teachers in the US, and a tradition of female works teams in association and other codes. ‘Boy can they play!’ ran the slogan of the inaugural FIFA Women’s World U19 Championship, held

-177-

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