The “beautiful game” would never have the right to bear that name if it wasn’t the most comprehensive and all-encompassing sport in the world.
To reflect that, football’s governing association decided to found the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991. There would finally be a pinnacle to the women’s game, just as the Jules Rimet Cup had finally encompassed footballing utopia in a single tournament.
From the victorious USA in China to the fantastic Japanese winners in Germany, the establishment of the Women’s World Cup as the prime sporting event for women is proof that despite many stereotypes, women can play football at the highest level too. The 1999 edition saw its grand finale entertain over 90,000 fans – the greatest attendance to a female sporting event ever. The 2011 edition was widely watched and lauded by many flowers of the game and a high volume of tickets were purchased.
Ex-FIFA President Joao Havelange was the mastermind of the tournament; a clear example of men and women working together for gender equality. American defender Brandi Chastain made popular history when she celebrated in a similar fashion to a man after scoring in Pasadena in 1999, removing her shirt and swinging it around in ecstasy. Everything has come together for the women’s World Cup in recent years, as female players have not only become history-makers in football, but also by being huge proponents of the older values of football – e.g. style, fun and happiness.
Great players like the Brazilian Marta are regarded as highly as the best male footballers due to her splendid poise, grace and typically Brazilian ability on the ball. She has won the female version of the BallonD’or four consecutive times, setting a record in the game.
Only a handful of players have participated in 5 World Cups, and one of them is American captain Kristine Lilly, so it is clear that women’s standing in the game has risen due to the existence of a female equivalent of the marquee tournament of football. The USA and Germany are the two best teams in the history of the competition, with 2 wins apiece. Norway and Japan have claimed victories in the other editions.
Abby Wambach of America and Birgit Prinz of Germany are the World Cup’s two highest scorers, and their respective totals of 22 and 19 goals eclipse MiroslavKlose and Ronaldo’s 15 goals – the male record. They’ve engraved their names into the annals of history as the best players in the history of football. Brigit Prinz has tasted success with the disciplined and stylish German squad twice in this competition, competing 3 other times.
Just as with the men’s World Cup, women have managed to produce football matches if the very highest quality, such as 4-3 golden goal victory over Nigeria in 1999 to go through to the semi-finals. And women perfected the golden goal’s efficiency when Germany’s Nia Kunzer scored in the 98th minute of the World Cup final to seal Germany’s very first female World Cup trophy.
Despite the large amounts of critics and attacks on female goalkeepers, Germany’s Nadine Angerer produced one of the best performances in history when she completely shut-out a champagne Brazilian squad – even saving a penalty kick.
In what will be the 7th edition of the tournament next year in Canada, a true football feast is widely expected to entertain travellers and locals alike, and make for a competition just as enthralling as any men’s World Cup. The stock of female football is on the rise, and the success of this competition is key to its meteoric rise. Whilst club matches are badly broadcasted on many channels, the World Cup will always hold its place at the very top of a footballer’s hopes.
With the growing number of national female football teams eager to try their hand at the game’s greatest honour, the Women’s World Cup is undergoing several revamps. Where 12 teams once contested the entire finals in 1991, 24 will be duking out for the Canadian finals next year. It is not long before the full 32-team roster used in the men’s game will come into usage, as football ensures girls from all over the world can communicate in a single language.
The existence of a Women’s World Cup has allowed the estimated 29million female footballers in the world to finally aspire to the greatest glory in the game. Women have thus been granted the dizzying heights of the game to which they can climb to, which means that they’ve now got a real reason to play. It has been a major leveller in the history of the game and allowed for the formation of female sports teams which have granted freedom and hope to young girls the world over.
In many traditional African and Asian cultures, women are not typically accepted in their societies as footballers, but the existence of such tournaments have broken down the social barriers that existed. The FIFA Women’s World Cup stands as an icon of gender equality, revolution in humanity, but most of all, as a symbol of the unity of football across social and historical divides.