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In Women’s World Cup Origin Story, Truth and Fiction Blur

FIFA acknowledges a France-Netherlands encounter in 1971 as the first females’s international match. It was no such thing, but that doesn’t decrease the women who participated.


Credit Credit Pete Kiehart for The New York Times

HAZEBROUCK, France– There is no plaque at the small stadium here. Absolutely nothing to commemorate the long-ago match. Some gamers state they had no idea of its immediate significance up until the last whistle. Among the best gamers was absent, not able to get the day of rest from work.

And just decades later on did the soccer officials who long neglected the women’s game, and enabled it to be prohibited in England, France and Germany, add a larger, contrived meaning to the video game. As if history could be attached like a synthetic hip.

On April 17, 1971, a cold Saturday night, France beat the Netherlands, 4-0, at Stade Auguste Damette. About 1,000 viewers appeared to watch the French midfielder Jocelyne Ratignier charm with a hat technique. Afterward, some French gamers state, they were informed that it had actually been a certifying match for an unofficial Women’s World Cup to be played in August of that year in Mexico. Some keep in mind a toast of Champagne.

At the turn of the 21 st century, FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, chose to recognize that France-Netherlands game as the very first main ladies’s international match. It was no such thing. England and Scotland had actually played in the late 1800 s. In 1920, a French group played a group from England, prior to which the captains kissed each other on the cheek for excellent luck and sportsmanship– eliciting maybe the very first worldwide media minute for ladies’s soccer.

A photo of the kiss appeared in newspapers from Australia to South America to Asia, according to Jean Williams, a sports historian from Britain.

” I call it the kiss that went around the world,” Williams stated.

Still, the 1971 match works as a revealing origin story for the current Women’s World Cup, and a practical illustration of how the sport has actually evolved in France and somewhere else. The gamers from that France team are being honored with appearances at French matches this month. It was a group that was strictly amateur. Lots of players were students; some were still in high school. They frequently faced a dismissiveness, informed to go house and cook and darn socks. Today, the French national group includes experts refining their abilities in a flourishing domestic league.


Credit Marcel Binh/Agence France-Presse– Getty Images

The 1971 match also works as a tacit admission by FIFA that it had stopped working women’s soccer for years. Not up until 1991 existed an official Women’s World Cup. And even then, the designation was included just in retrospect, so careful was FIFA of sharing its most valuable brand with a females’s occasion featuring 12 teams playing 80- minute games.

” It’s remarkable how there has been a modification of mindset,” Colette Guyard, 67, a midfielder on France’s 1971 team, said through an interpreter. “Women are no longer washing socks.”

Organized matches in between ladies’s groups in France actually started in Paris in 1917, and a French females’s league was formed in 1919, according to the historian Lindsay Sarah Krasnoff, author of a history of French sport called “The Making of Les Bleus.” But in 1941, a year after France was surpassed by the Nazis, the collaborationist Vichy federal government prohibited females’s soccer under the pretext that “there was too fantastic a threat” that the sport would make women “more masculine,” according to a study by a French research study company called Iris

That stereotype continued in France as late as 1965, according to an article on FIFA’s website in 2011, which pointed to an article in France Football magazine that declared, “in our opinion, football is only for males.”

But attitudes about women and sports began to move in the late 1960 s, a period of social turmoil and second-wave feminism. In 1970, the French soccer federation officially acknowledged the women’s video game. That same year, stated Ghislaine Royer-Souef, a goalkeeper and main defender, her French club group from Reims explored several American cities, playing matches against an Italian team.

” We were told we were the ones bringing ladies’s football to the U.S.,” Royer-Souef, 66, stated through an interpreter. “I’m really happy with it.”

The coach of that Reims club, Pierre Geoffroy, also coached France’s national group. For the 1971 match versus the Netherlands, players remembered training on sandy hills and taking long hikes through a forest.

An enduring poster from the match, now part of an exploring World Cup exhibit, points out that it was preparation for the “world championship.” Royer-Souef remembered Geoffroy informing the team “to play well due to the fact that with a success we would have the ability to go to Mexico.” France scored early, she said, and the team had the ability to relax.

Other players remember Geoffroy keeping news about the unofficial World Cup, possibly attempting not to make the team extremely anxious.


Credit Pete Kiehart for The New York City Times


Credit Pete Kiehart for The New York Times

” We just understood after the match,” Guyard said.

One of the group’s finest players, a wing called Michele Wolf, missed out on the game, teammates said, to work her shift at a grocery shop.

” We were beginners, not professionals,” Royer-Souef said. “She needed to work to be able to consume. She was not going to lose her task for a football match.”

Wolf likewise missed out on the informal World Cup that August in Mexico, colleagues said. That competition included six groups: four from Europe and 2 from Latin America. The teams’ travel expenses were paid by Martini & Rossi, the Italian drink business that organized the competition, and brazen chauvinism prevailed in the pretournament accumulation.

A United Press International dispatch appeared in The New York Times on June 27, 1971, under the heading: “ Soccer Goes Sexy South of Border” The goal posts would be painted pink and the gamers would wear shorts “as close as possible to hot trousers,” the short article noted, adding that there would be “appeal hair salons” in the dressing rooms “so the girls can present themselves for interviews and public events complete with incorrect eyelashes, lipstick and an appealing hairdo.”

A photograph from the tournament appeared to show that the objective posts indeed were painted pink and white. But other photographs indicate that organizers might have showed some restraint when it concerned uniforms and beauty parlor in the dressing spaces, according to Williams, the historian.

Ratignier, the previous French midfielder and a just recently retired professor of physical education, said she had no recollection of organizers attempting to make the gamers appear more hot.


Credit Pete Kiehart for The New York City Times

Denmark won the 1971 world championship, defeating Mexico, 3-0, in the last prior to an approximated crowd of 110,000 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. France completed fifth, defeating England, 3-2, in a consolation match. Royer-Souef scored the choosing goal.

The French gamers sang La Marseillaise, their nationwide anthem, and Royer-Souef stated she felt happy to represent a renewal of ladies’s soccer. However, Guyard said, in some methods it did not feel as if she and her colleagues were representing their country the method the current players are.

Unlike nowadays, there was little news protection in France of the 1971 competition. “Nobody understood women were playing in Mexico,” Guyard said. “How does that make you feel?”

Ratignier, 65, stated that she maintained complicated sensations about the arc of women’s soccer, in France and somewhere else. Speaking through an interpreter, she discussed that she felt “extremely lucky” to have played in a World Cup, even an informal one, at age17 And she praised the current advances in ladies’s soccer, while noting that they had actually come slowly and were “still not enough.”

” We played in 1971, and it took another 20 years for the first official Women’s World Cup,” Ratignier stated. “I feel pleased about the advancement. I just do not understand how to feel about it when it takes so long.”

Jeré Longman is a sports reporter and a best-selling author. He covers a variety of international sports, primarily Olympic ones. He has operated at The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Dallas Times Herald and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss.

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