Beyond Bend It like Beckham: The Global Phenomenon of Women's Soccer

By Timothy F. Grainey | Go to book overview
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11
Overcoming a Fifty-Year Ban in England

England holds the enviable titles as the historical birthplace of soccer and the great exporter of the game throughout the world. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, British military troops, engineers, and other ex-pats took the game far and wide, including to Brazil, India, South Africa, and the United States. Many times the locals quickly adapted the sport after watching the British play amongst themselves. In other cases the visitors actively introduced the sport to the locals, providing equipment and teaching them the rules, in a fashion not unlike religious missionaries. It’s not surprising then to find that England was also an early adapter and proponent of the women’s game. The first recorded women’s football match took place in North London in March 1895, when British Ladies Football Club organized a game with a northern schoolgirl’s team, who beat their rivals from the south 7–1 before ten thousand people. The sport had a Camelot period in the 1920s led by the Dick, Kerr Ladies of Preston, a World War I-era works team that drew thousands to exhibitions and donated hundreds of thousands of British pounds to various charities. Their success threatened the custodians of the men’s professional game so much, however, that in 1921 the English Football Association (FA) banned the women from using fields and stadiums controlled by FA-affiliated clubs (men’s teams), an edict that was not rescinded until 1971, half a century later. The English women’s game has still not fully

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