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What’s behind the fascination with women’s football?

Women’s football began in Britain. The first British women’s football team, the British Ladies, was set up by Nettie Honeyball in 1894. The English women’s team now boasts one of the world’s best forwards, Kelly Smith. While women’s football reached its first peak in England in the 1920s, women were banned from playing football in Germany until 1970. The reason for this according to the German football association, DFB, at the time was that ‘this combat sport is essentially alien to a woman’s nature.’

Despite this ban, the German women’s national team now ranks second in the world, with Fatmire Bajramaj as its secret weapon on the pitch. In France, the first women’s teams were set up during the First World War, and a Women’s World Cup has been held since 1974. So far it has failed to produce any great international successes.

Women players in North and South America

Men’s soccer is struggling to gain a following in the United States, while its female equivalent is highly popular there and is regarded as a typical sport for women. The reason for this popularity is that football is very widespread at U.S. universities, which give the same number of sports grants for professional training to girls as to boys.

In contrast, women’s football is very much in the shadow of the men’s game in South America, even though Brazil has some of the world’s best women players, such as five-time winner of the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year Marta Vieira da Silva. Many Brazilian women play for European teams or in the U.S. soccer league. The Brazilian national team is the best in South America, and is now justly ranked third in the world.

Women players – amateurs or professionals?

Women’s football now enjoys a higher profile in Germany, but the women’s game still fails to match the men’s for popularity. Many of the players are unofficially amateurs who have a ‘day job’ too, such as Germany’s goalkeeper Ursula Holl. Italy provides a good example of women’s amateur football. Football is one of the most popular sports in the country, but women are excluded from the professional league. In England, most players play for semi-professional teams, such as those in the FA’s Women’s Super League (WSL). The United States, with its Women’s Professional Soccer league, is the spearhead of women’s professional football, followed by Brazil. The U.S. World Cup team has been number one in the world since 2009, with top players such as Abby Wambach and Kristine Lilly in the line-up.

Women’s football: outlook and prospects

Dr Theo Zwanziger, president of the German football association DFB, sees good chances for women’s football to progress further around the globe, thanks in part to the FIFA Women’s World

How do you view developments in women’s football in Germany and other countries?

Discuss this topic with other members in group: World Cup sport and cultural gatherings.

July 2011

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