I took a trip to the National Football Museum last weekend. It’s all round pretty good (if you’re into football, anyway) but what really pleased me was the way women’s football was worked into the exhibitions as part of the same history as men’s football. It wasn’t treated as a separate game.
It also introduced me to the best named footballer ever: Nettie Honeyball.
Honeyball founded the British Women’s team in 1894. They wore pretty much what they wanted, mainly going for loose blouses and knickerbockers, with some women choosing to wear a skirt over the top. Honeyball was a committed feminist, as were many of the women on the team, and clearly had impeccable taste in knickerbockers.
Women’s football became huge during and after World War One, when all the teams had names like the “Dick Kerr Ladies” (after the factory they worked in). They played against other munitionette teams.
How super cute are their hats? Most of the female football teams of the period are rocking these hats. Lily Parr, who joined the team at 14, went on to be one of the most successful footballers of all time, scoring over 900 goals. She was also openly gay and an LGBT activist in later life.
Sadly, Lily and co didn’t get to play in the UK for long, since the FA banned women’s teams from playing in men’s stadiums. So Dick Kerr took their awesome overseas on a world tour instead. Eventually the factory pulled their support too, and they became Preston Ladies FC, but in the end the team folded altogether. That ban on stadiums lasted fifty years – none of the WW1 teams managed to outlast it.
The WFA was actually founded before the ban ended. Shortly after the FA finally allowed women out of the kitchens and back in the stadiums we have our first national squad. It’s 1972. Not an inspiring kit, but it’s nice to have one that’s as practical as the male kit.
The current kit is much nicer; I love the little shoulder crosses. Sep Blatter, head of the Football Association (Racist, Sexist, Homohobic, all round arse) informed the world in 2004 more people would watch women’s football if they wore tighter shorts. To which we say: Women played awesome football in knickerbockers, they played awesome football in cute hats, and they continue to play awesome football in perfectly sensible kits today. Fuck you, Sep Blatter.