|Highest governing body||FIFA|
|First played||1880s, Great Britain|
|Team members||11 per side (including goalkeeper)|
|Mixed-sex||No, separate competitions|
|Venue||Football pitch (football ground, soccer field, soccer ground or "pitch")|
|Glossary||Glossary of association football|
|Country or region||Worldwide|
Women's association football, more commonly known simply as women's football or women's soccer,is a team sport of association football when played by women only. It is played at the professional level in multiple countries and 176 national teams participate internationally. The history of women's football has seen competitions being launched at both the national and international levels.
After the "first golden age" of women's football occurred in the United Kingdom in the 1920s, with one match attracting over 50,000 spectators,The Football Association instituted a ban from 1921 to 1970 in England that disallowed women's football on the grounds used by its member clubs. In many other nations, female footballers faced similarly hostile treatment and bans by male-dominated organisations.
In the 1970s, international women's football tournaments were extremely popularand the oldest surviving continental championship was founded, the Women's Asian Cup. However, FIFA did not allow a woman even to speak at the FIFA Congress until 1986 (Ellen Wille). The FIFA Women's World Cup was first held in China in 1991 and has become a major television event in many countries.
Women may have been playing football for as long as the game has existed. Evidence shows that a similar game (cuju) was played by women during the Han Dynasty (25–220 CE). Two female figures are depicted in Han Dynasty frescoes, playing Tsu Chu.There are a number of opinions about the accuracy of dates, the earliest estimates at 5000 BCE. Reports of an annual match being played in Midlothian, Scotland are reported as early as the 1790s. In 1863, football governing bodies introduced standardized rules to prohibit violence on the pitch, making it more socially acceptable for women to play.
The first match of an international character took place in 1881 at Hibernian Park in Edinburgh,part of a tour by Scotland and England teams. The Scottish Football Association recorded a women's match in 1892.
The British Ladies' Football Club was founded by activist Nettie Honeyball in England in 1894. Honeyball and those like her paved the way for women's football.However, the women's game was frowned upon by the British football associations, and continued without their support. It has been suggested that this was motivated by a perceived threat to the 'masculinity' of the game.
In August 1917, a tournament was launched for female munition workers' teams in north-east England. Officially titled the "Tyne Wear & Tees Alfred Wood Munition Girls Cup", it was also known as "The Munitionettes' Cup".The first winners of the trophy were Blyth Spartans, who defeated Bolckow Vaughan 5–0 in a replayed final tie at Middlesbrough on 18 May 1918 in front of a crowd of 22,000. The tournament ran for a second year in season 1918–19, the winners being the ladies of Palmer's shipyard in Jarrow, who defeated Christopher Brown's of Hartlepool 1–0 at St James' Park in Newcastle on 22 March 1919.
At the time of the First World War, employment in heavy industry spurred the growth of the game, like it had done for men fifty years earlier. A team from England played a team from Ireland on Boxing Day 1917 in front of a crowd of 20,000 spectators. [ clarification needed ] against a team from Paris, France, in April, and also made up most of the England team against a Scottish Ladies XI in 1920, winning 22–0.The Irish side of this was dramatised in the play Rough Girls in 2021. Dick, Kerr Ladies F.C. of Preston, England played in the first women's international matches in 1920,
Despite being more popular than some men's football events (one match saw a 53,000 strong crowd),women's football in England was halted in December 1921 when The Football Association outlawed the playing of the game on Association members' pitches, the FA stating that "the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged."
Players and football writers have argued that this ban was due to envy of the large crowds that women's matches attracted,and because the FA had no control over the money made from the women's game. Dick, Kerr Ladies player Alice Barlow said, "we could only put it down to jealousy. We were more popular than the men and our bigger gates were for charity."
In other countries, women's football was further debilitated by nationwide banswhich often resembled the English FA's measures. The German Football Association banned women's soccer from 1955 until 1970. In Brazil, the Vargas regime and military dictatorship legally prohibited girls and women from playing football from 1941 to 1979.
Despite the bans, some women's teams continued to play. The English Ladies Football Association (1921–1922) had to play some of its matches at rugby grounds. [ clarification needed ]
Following the FA ban on women's teams on 5 December 1921, the English Ladies' Football Association was formed, with 58 affiliated clubs.A silver cup was donated by the first president of the association, Len Bridgett. A total of 23 teams entered the first competition in the spring of 1922. The winners were Stoke Ladies who beat Doncaster and Bentley Ladies 3–1 on 24 June 1922.
In 1937, the Dick, Kerr Ladies F.C., who had lost to Scotland's Rutherglen Ladies in 1923 but continued to be proclaimed as "world champions",played the Edinburgh City Girls in the 'Championship of Great Britain and the World'. Dick, Kerr won the competition with a 5–1 scoreline. The 1939 competition was a more organised affair and the Edinburgh City Girls beat Dick, Kerr 5–2 in Edinburgh, following this up with a 7–1 demolition of Glasgow Ladies in Falkirk to take the title.
The English Women's FA was formed in 1969 (as a result of the increased interest generated by the 1966 World Cup).
The ban in England was maintained by the FA for nearly fifty years, until January 1970.The next year, UEFA recommended that the national associations in each country should manage the women's game. In 2002, Lily Parr of Dick Kerr's Ladies was the first woman to be inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame. She was later honoured with a statue in front of the museum. It was not until 2008 (87 years later), that the FA issued an apology for banning women from the game of football.
In 1970 an Italian women's football federation, known as Federazione Femminile Italiana Giuoco Calcio or FFIGC, ran the 1970 Women's World Cup in Italy, supported by the Martini and Rossi strong wine manufacturers,and entirely without the involvement of FIFA. This event was at least partly played by clubs. The 1971 Women's World Cup with national teams was hosted by Mexico the following year. The final, won by Denmark, was played at Estadio Azteca, the largest arena in the entire Americas north of the Panama Canal at the time, in front of crowds estimated at 110,000 or 112,500 attendees.
During the 1970s, Italy became the first country to introduce professional women's football players, on a part-time basis. Italy was also the first country to import foreign footballers from other European countries, which raised the profile of the league. Players during that era included Susanne Augustesen (Denmark), Rose Reilly and Edna Neillis (Scotland), Anne O'Brien (Ireland) and Concepcion Sánchez Freire (Spain).Sweden was the first to introduce a professional women's domestic league in 1988, the Damallsvenskan.
In 1989, Japan became the first country to have a semi-professional women's football league, the L. League – still in existence today as Division 1 of the Nadeshiko League.
In Australia, the W-League was formed in 2008.
In 2015, the Chinese Women's Super League (CWSL) was launched with an affiliated second division, CWFL.Previously, The Chinese Women's Premier Football League was initiated in 1997 and evolved to the Women's Super League in 2004. From 2011 to 2014, the league was named the Women's National Football League.
The Indian Women's League was launched in 2016. The country has held the top-tier tournament, Indian Women's Football Championship, since 1991.
In 1985, the United States national soccer team was formed.Following the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup, the first professional women's soccer league in the United States, the WUSA, was launched and lasted three years. The league was spearheaded by members of the World Cup-winning American team and featured players like Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain as well as top-tier international players like Germany's Birgit Prinz and China's Sun Wen. A second attempt towards a sustainable professional league, the Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), was launched in 2009 and folded in late 2011. The following year, the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) was launched with initial support from the United States, Canadian, and Mexico federations.
In 2017, Liga MX Femenil was launched in Mexico and broke several attendance records. The league is composed of women's teams for the men's counterpart teams in Liga MX.
A 2014 FIFA report stated that at the beginning of the 21st century, women's football, like men's football, was growing in both popularity and participationas well as more professional leagues worldwide. From the inaugural FIFA Women's World Cup tournament held in 1991 to the 1,194,221 tickets sold for the 1999 Women's World Cup visibility and support of women's professional football has increased around the globe.
However, as in some other sports, women's pay and opportunities are lower in comparison with professional male football players."Major league and international women's football have far less television and media coverage than the men's equivalent." While a number of features continue to improve, this is not the case for female coaches. They continue to be underrepresented in a number of European women's leagues. Despite these factors, the popularity and participation in women's football continues to grow.
In 2022, Barcelona had the largest reported attendances for women's football since the 1971 Women's World Cup final,Mexico–Denmark (110,000), at the Azteca Stadium. Real Madrid and Wolfsburg were the visiting teams at Camp Nou in the Champions League (91,553 and 91,648).
The first known World Cup tournaments for women's teams are the 1970 Women's World Cup in Italy and the 1971 Women's World Cup in Mexico, both of which hold attendance recordsand which were organised by the international women's association, FIEFF/FIFF. Some other major tournaments were the Women's World Invitational Tournament in Taiwan (1978–1987) and the Women's Mundialito in Japan and Italy (1981–1988). FIFA effectively ignored women's football prior to the 1988 FIFA Women's Invitation Tournament in China. FIFA's first officially-recognised women's international match is France–Netherlands (1971), but this was not decided until 2003.
The first FIFA Women's World Cup was held in China in November 1991 and won by the United States. The runners-up, Norway, became the 1995 champions, beating Germany in that final, in Sweden. The United States controversially won the 1999 final on penalties against China (with a competition-record 90,000+ Pasadena crowd). Germany won consecutive world titles in 2003 and 2007, winning finals against Sweden and Brazil respectively. Japan became champions in 2011, the country's first senior football world championship.The US won again in 2015 and in 2019.
Since 1996, a Women's Football Tournament has been staged at the Olympic Games. Unlike in the men's Olympic Football tournament (based on teams of mostly under-23 players), the Olympic women's teams do not have restrictions due to professionalism or age.
The participation of Great Britain men's and women's sides at the 2012 Olympic tournament was a bone of contention because England and other British Home Nations are not eligible to compete as separate entities. Eventually, both the men's and women's Great Britain teams fielded some players from the other home nations, but without their associations' active support.
European women's tournaments featuring national teams were held in Italy in 1969 and in 1979 as the European Competition for Women's Football.They were not recognized as "official" by UEFA, which opposed women's football until the 1970s. The UEFA championship began in 1984 under the name European Competition For Representative Women's Teams.
The 1984 Finals was won by Sweden. Norway won the 1987 Finals. Between 1987 and 2013, the UEFA Women's Championship was then dominated by Germany, who won eight titles, including six in a row from 1995 to 2013. The only other teams to win, as of 2022, are Norway in 1993, the Netherlands at home in 2017, and England at home in 2022.
Copa Libertadores Femenina (Women's Liberators Cup) formally known as CONMEBOL Libertadores Femenina is the international women's football club competition for teams that play in CONMEBOL nations. The competition started in the 2009 season in response to the increased interest in women's football. It is the only CONMEBOL club competition for women.
The SAFF Women's Championship, also called the South Asian Football Federation Women's Cup, is the main association football competition of the women's national football teams, governed by the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF). All seven members are eligible to participate in this tournament.
India won first 5 edition so far, beating Nepal four times and Bangladesh once in the final.Bangladesh is the current champion having defeated Nepal by 3–1 goals on 19 September 2022 in the final.
After the lifting of the FA ban, the Women's Football Association held its first national knockout tournament, the 1970–71 WFA Cup. Southampton Women's F.C. was the inaugural winner and became the Cup-winner eight times. From 1983 to 1994, Doncaster Belles reached ten out of 11 finals, winning six of them. As of 2022, Chelsea are the holders and Arsenal are the club with a record 14 wins.Despite tournament sponsorship by some companies, entering the cup actually costs clubs more than they get in prize money. In 2015 it was reported that even if Notts County had won the tournament outright the £8,600 winnings would leave them out of pocket. The winners of the men's FA Cup in the same year received £1.8 million, with teams not reaching the first round proper getting more than the women's winners.
In 2002, FIFA inaugurated a women's youth championship, officially called the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship. The first event was hosted by Canada. The final was an all-CONCACAF affair, with the USA defeating the host Canadians 1–0 with an extra-time golden goal. The second event was held in Thailand in 2004 and won by Germany. The age limit was raised to 20, starting with the 2006 event held in Russia. Demonstrating the increasing global reach of the women's game, the winners of this event were North Korea. The tournament was renamed the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, effective with the 2008 edition won by the US in Chile. Japan won the tournament in France in 2018.
In 2008, FIFA instituted an under-17 world championship. The inaugural event, held in New Zealand, was won by North Korea. Spain won this tournament in Uruguay in 2018.
In the United States, the intercollegiate sport began from physical education programs. In the 1970s, women's club teams started to appear on college campus, but it wasn't until the 1980s that they started to gain recognition and gained a varsity status. Brown University was the first college to grant full varsity level status to their women's soccer team. The Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) sponsored the first regional women's soccer tournament at college in the US, which was held at Brown University. The first national level tournament was held at Colorado College, which gained official AIAW sponsorship in 1981. The 1990s saw greater participation mainly due to the Title IX of 23 June 1972, which increased school's budgets and their addition of women's scholarships. Currently there are over 700 intercollegiate women's soccer teams in the NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA.
The college sports system and Title IX have been criticized for promoting systemic racism and wealth inequality in women's soccer in the US.Female college soccer players are 70% white, with the sport also being "disproportionately white and upper-middle-class". Participating in American youth soccer is substantially more expensive than in basketball or tackle football, and academy soccer clubs are mainly located in suburbs and districts where Black players are under-represented. As a result, in the National Women's Soccer League in 2020, the coaches and executives were 98.9% white. Three women's soccer coaches were implicated in the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal. NCAA Division I programs in money-losing sports, such as soccer, are extensively subsidized by the only two high-revenue college sports, basketball and American football, in which Black players are greatly over-represented, but the players are paid no salaries and are "systematically denied the revenue they are responsible for generating".
A number of footballers around the globe wear a kit made up of a jersey, shorts, cleats (boots) and knee-length socks worn over shin guards. In 2004, FIFA President Sepp Blatter suggested that women footballers should "wear tighter shorts and low cut shirts... to create a more female aesthetic" and attract more male fans. His comment was criticized as sexist by people involved with women's football and media outlets worldwide.
In September 2008, FC de Rakt women's team (FC de Rakt DA1) in the Netherlands made international headlines by swapping its old kit for a new one featuring "short" skirts and "tight-fitting" shirts.This innovation, which had been requested by the team itself, was initially vetoed by the Royal Dutch Football Association on the grounds that according to the rules of the game shorts must be worn by all players, both male and female; but this decision was reversed when it was revealed that the FC de Rakt team were wearing "hot" pants under their skirts, and were therefore technically in compliance. Denying that the kit change was merely a publicity stunt, club chairman Jan van den Elzen told Reuters:
The girls asked us if they could make a team and asked specifically to play in skirts. We said we'd try but we didn't expect to get permission for that. We've seen reactions from Belgium and Germany already saying this could be something for them. Many girls would like to play in skirts but didn't think it was possible.
21-year-old team captain Rinske Temming said:
We think they are far more elegant than the traditional shorts and furthermore they are more comfortable because the shorts are made for men. It's more about being elegant, not sexy. Female football is not so popular at the moment. In the Netherlands there's an image that it's more for men, but we hope that can change.
Also in June 2011, Russian UEFA Women's Champions League contenders WFC Rossiyanka announced a plan to play in bikinis in a bid to boost attendances.
Until 2020 only Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Palestine, Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Israel had large-scale women's competitions and national teams, which are still hindered due to discrimination against women in football.
Since 2020, countries that have traditionally been seen as extreme like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Mauritania and Sudan have begun to develop women's football in order to raise their international profiles and to distance themselves from their conservative pasts.Sudan women's national football team debuted in 2021 and the Saudi Arabia women's team was internationally noticed, due to Saudi Arabia's religious conservatism and its radical Islamic school of thought.
In June 2011, Iran forfeited an Olympic qualification match in Jordan, after trying to take to the field in hijabs and full body suits. FIFA awarded a default 3–0 win to Jordan, explaining that the Iranian kits were "an infringement of the Laws of the Game".The decision provoked criticism from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while Iranian officials alleged that the actions of the Bahraini match delegate had been politically motivated. In July 2012, FIFA approved the wearing of hijab in future matches.
Association football, more commonly known as simply football or soccer, is a team sport played between two teams of 11 players who primarily use their feet to propel the ball around a rectangular field called a pitch. The objective of the game is to score more goals than the opposition by moving the ball beyond the goal line into the opposing side's rectangular framed goal. Traditionally, the game has been played over two 45 minute halves, for a total match time of 90 minutes. With an estimated 250 million players active in over 200 countries, it is considered the world's most popular sport.
The Asian Football Confederation is a governing body of association football, beach soccer, and futsal in some countries/territories in Asia and Oceania. It has 47 member countries most of which are located in Asia. Australia, formerly in OFC, joined AFC in 2006. Guam, a territory of the United States, and the Northern Mariana Islands, 1 of the 2 commonwealths of the United States are also AFC members that are geographically in Oceania. The Asian Ladies Football Confederation (ALFC) was the section of AFC who managed women's association football in Asia. The group was independently founded in April 1968 in a meeting involving Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. In 1986 ALFC merged with AFC.
Dick, Kerr Ladies F.C. was one of the earliest known women's association football teams in England. The team remained in existence for over 48 years, from 1917 to 1965, playing 833 games, winning 759, drawing 46, and losing 28. During its early years, matches attracted anywhere from 4,000 to over 50,000 spectators per match. In 1920, Dick, Kerr Ladies defeated a French side 2–0 in front of 25,000 people that went down in history as the first international women's association football game. The team faced strong opposition by the Football Association (FA), who banned the women from using fields and stadiums controlled by FA-affiliated clubs for 50 years.
Karen Julia Carney is an English sports journalist and former professional footballer who played as a winger and midfielder. Carney has been a regular broadcaster for live football on Sky Sports and Amazon Prime, including Women's Super League and men's Premier League matches since 2019. She is also a sports columnist for BBC Sport, BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Television.
Women's football has been played in England for over a century, sharing a common history with the men's game as the country in which the Laws of the Game were codified.
Alexandra Virina Scott is an English sports presenter, pundit, and former professional footballer who mostly played as a right-back for Arsenal in the FA WSL. She made 140 appearances for the England national team and represented Great Britain at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Eniola Aluko is a British-Nigerian football executive, commentator, and former professional player. She is the first Sporting Director for Angel City FC of the American National women’s soccer league and formerly held the position of Sporting Director at Aston Villa women FC from January 2020 to June 2021.
Casey Jean Stoney is an English professional football manager and former player who is the head coach of San Diego Wave FC. A versatile defender, she was capped more than 100 times for the England women's national football team since making her debut in 2000. After being a non-playing squad member at UEFA Women's Euro 2005, she was an integral part of the England teams which reached the UEFA Women's Euro 2009 final and the quarter finals of the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2007 and 2011. In 2012, Stoney succeeded Faye White as the England captain and also became captain of the newly formed Team GB squad for the 2012 London Olympics. She ended her playing career at Liverpool Ladies. She was appointed as the first head coach of the newly-formed Manchester United Women on 8 June 2018.
Fara Tanya Franki Merrett MBE is an English former footballer who played as a central midfielder for multiple clubs, as well as the English national team. A consistent goalscorer and set-piece specialist, Williams was considered one of England's leading players. After making her senior debut in 2001, Williams earned 172 caps for the England Women's Team, making her their highest capped player. She played at the 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2017 European Championships, as well as the World Cups in 2007, 2011 and 2015. Williams also featured for Team GB at the 2012 London Olympics.
Jill Louise Scott is an English former professional footballer who played as a midfielder. The FIFA technical report into the 2011 Women's World Cup described Scott as one of England's four outstanding players; "[an] energetic, ball-winning midfielder who organises the team well, works hard at both ends of the pitch and can change her team's angle of attack."
Carly Mitchell Telford is an English footballer who plays as a goalkeeper for San Diego Wave and the England national team.
Laura Colleen Gloria Brock is an Australian soccer player who plays for EA Guingamp in the Division 1 Féminine. She made her debut for the national team in 2010.
Betsy Doon Hassett is a New Zealand footballer who plays for the New Zealand women's national football team and New Zealand club Wellington Phoenix. She has previously played for German side SC Sand, English club Manchester City, Amazon Grimstad in Norway, Werder Bremen in Germany's Frauen-Bundesliga, Dutch club Ajax, and Icelandic clubs KR and Stjarnan. Hassett represented New Zealand at the 2011 and 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup as well as the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics. As a youth, she played at the 2008 and 2010 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup tournaments.
Ellen Toni Convery, commonly known as Ellen White, is an English former professional footballer who played as a forward. She is the record England women’s goal scorer. With England, she has competed at three FIFA Women's World Cup tournaments: in the 2011, 2015 and 2019, reaching the semi-finals in 2015 and 2019 and finishing third in 2015. White earned the Bronze Boot award at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France. She represented Great Britain team at the 2012 and 2020 Summer Olympics.
Jodie Lee Taylor is an English professional footballer who plays as a striker for San Diego Wave of NWSL. She began her club career with local team Tranmere Rovers and had brief spells in her home country with Birmingham City, Lincoln Ladies, and Arsenal. A well-traveled player, she has also played abroad in the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden and France.
Women's association football in Scotland has an organised history including the first international women's match in 1881, the president of the British Ladies' Football Club in 1895, Lady Florence Dixie, the Edinburgh–Preston "World Championship" in 1937 and 1939, and the Scottish Women's Cup founded in 1970. The sport is jointly overseen by Scottish Women's Football, the Scottish Football Association, and Scottish Professional Football League.
Women's football in Wales is overseen by the Football Association of Wales and is affiliated with both the world (FIFA) and European (UEFA) football governing bodies. As such the national team are eligible to compete in the World Cup and the European Championship. The winners of the top tier league is invited to join the qualifying stage of the Champions League.
Caroline Elspeth Lillias Weir is a Scottish professional footballer who plays as an attacking midfielder or forward for Spanish Primera División club Real Madrid CF and the Scotland women's national team.
Millie Bright is an English professional footballer who plays as a defender for Chelsea and the England national team. She previously played for Doncaster Belles, Leeds Ladies and represented England on the under-19 and under-23 national teams.
The 1970–71 Women's Football Association Cup was the first edition of the WFA Cup, the national women's football knockout competition in England, which at the time was open to clubs from the rest of the United Kingdom. It was organised by the Women's Football Association (WFA).
This section needs to be updated.(July 2022)