Women’s football has come a long way since its humble beginnings, and it all started with a groundbreaking moment in history – the first-ever official women’s international football match. This historic event marked a significant milestone for women’s participation in the sport and paved the way for the development and growth of women’s football around the world. In this article, we delve into the fascinating story behind this momentous occasion, exploring how women’s football emerged from the shadows and gained recognition on the international stage.

Early Years: Challenging the Norms

Although football has been played for centuries, women’s participation in the sport was initially met with resistance and skepticism. However, evidence suggests that women have been playing football far longer than commonly believed. In fact, references to women playing football can be found in literature as early as the 16th century, with Shakespeare himself making mention of it in his plays. Despite this, it took until the 19th century for women’s football to gain some form of recognition.

The Birth of Official Women’s Football Matches

The first recorded women’s football match took place on May 7, 1881, at Easter Road in Edinburgh, Scotland. The teams representing Scotland and England faced off in what would become a historic event. Although the nationalities of the players have been called into question, it remains a significant moment in women’s football history. The match attracted a crowd of approximately 2,000 spectators, and Lily St Clair made history by scoring the first-ever recorded goal by a female footballer.

As the 1890s unfolded, women’s club football began to gain momentum. Local clubs emerged, and women competed against each other in matches and competitions. One notable team was Madam Kenney’s Famous Edinburgh Team, which achieved a 1-0 victory over Grimsby Town Ladies in 1887. These clubs provided a platform for women to showcase their skills and passion for the game, defying societal norms and challenging the notion that football was exclusively a sport for men.

The Formation of Women’s Football Organizations

Recognizing the need for structure and support, women’s football organizations began to emerge. In 1895, the British Ladies’ Football Club (BLFC) was formed in London, led by Alfred Hewitt Smith and captained by Nettie J. Honeyball. The BLFC aimed to promote women’s football and ensure that players had the necessary equipment and clothing to participate safely. Lady Florence Dixie, a prominent writer, adventurer, and feminist, served as the president of the BLFC, further highlighting the growing influence of women in the sport.

Despite the increasing popularity of women’s football, it faced significant challenges and opposition. The Football Association (FA) initially resisted the idea of women playing football and issued a ban on women’s teams playing on football league grounds in 1921. The FA’s stance reflected the prevailing societal attitudes of the time, which often viewed women’s involvement in sports as unsuitable and discouraged.

The First Official Women’s International Match

The first official women’s international match took place on April 30, 1920, between Dick, Kerr Ladies from Preston, England, and a French team. This historic match attracted a crowd of 25,000 spectators, signifying the growing interest and support for women’s football. The game ended in a 2-0 victory for Dick, Kerr Ladies, and it marked a significant step towards the recognition and acceptance of women’s football on an international level.

The impact of the first women’s international match cannot be overstated. It ignited a spark that fueled the growth of women’s football, inspiring more women to take up the sport and challenging societal norms. Despite facing continued opposition and obstacles, women’s football persevered, slowly but surely gaining recognition and support.

Corinthian Nomads and Dundalk Ladies: “England v Ireland”

Fast forward to the 1970s, and women’s football still faced numerous obstacles, including bans on playing on official grounds and limited recognition from football authorities. The match between Corinthian Nomads and Dundalk Ladies was a testament to the determination and passion of these players, who fought against the odds for their love of the game. This clash was not only a display of skill and talent but also a symbol of the growing movement for equality and recognition in women’s football.

Corinthian Nomads, an established women’s football team from Manchester, were no strangers to success. With a long history and a reputation for dominating their opponents, the Nomads were a formidable force in the women’s game. On the other hand, Dundalk Ladies, a relatively new team from Ireland, were still finding their footing in the world of women’s football. Comprised mostly of young players, Dundalk Ladies had emerged from the indoor football leagues in Ireland and were eager to prove themselves on the international stage.

The clash between Corinthian Nomads and Dundalk Ladies was more than just a friendly match. It was advertised as ‘England versus Ireland,’ serving as a substitute for official international fixtures that were not yet permitted for women’s teams. The game held immense significance for both sides, as it provided an opportunity to showcase their skills and challenge the prevailing notions about women’s football. Despite the outcome being a comfortable 7-1 victory for Corinthian Nomads, Dundalk Ladies earned praise for their spirited performance and showcased their potential as a rising force in the women’s game.

The Legacy: Impact on Women’s Football

The match between Corinthian Nomads and Dundalk Ladies had a lasting impact on women’s football in both England and Ireland. It highlighted the need for official recognition and support for women’s teams, pushing football authorities to reconsider their stance on the women’s game. The Women’s Football Association (WFA), established in London in 1969, played a crucial role in advocating for the rights of women’s teams and paving the way for future advancements.

In the 1970s, women’s football faced numerous challenges, including bans on playing on FA-affiliated grounds. The match between Corinthian Nomads and Dundalk Ladies took place at Prestatyn Raceway in Wales, as women’s teams were not permitted to play on official grounds. This restriction was a clear indication of the prejudices and stereotypes that women’s football had to overcome. However, the determination and resilience of the players involved showed that the women’s game was worthy of recognition and respect.