December 1921 saw the Football Association put a ban on women’s football which would last 50 years, deeming the game “quite unsuitable for females”. Interestingly, though, this came at a time when women’s football was at its peak – playing for charity and attracting crowds of over 50,000, with thousands more unable to get into the grounds. So when the men returned from war, and some women’s matches continued to be more popular than the men’s, the FA banned it; it had suddenly become “unladylike” and, according to Dr Mary Scharlieb of Harley Street, “too much for a woman’s physical frame”. It seems likely that the FA were actually being influenced by traditionalists worried about the apparent shift in women’s etiquette, and were unhappy with the money raised by women’s football going to miners who were on strike at the time.
With women in sport now being celebrated around the world, it’s clear to see that past notions of women’s fitness incompetencies were false.
Take Johanna Konta, for example. The British tennis star with a killer serve made it to the semi-finals of Wimbledon this year, just losing to Venus Williams, and is world number 4. She reached further than any British female tennis player has reached at Wimbledon in 39 years, and she comes across as a refreshingly down-to-earth woman who just enjoys playing tennis, saying that fame is not the focus point of her career.
Women’s football team the Lionesses have shown outstanding promise so far in the Euro 2017, but it was Jodie Taylor’s performance in the opening match against Scotland that gave them a flying start. Scoring the first hat-trick by an England player in a major tournament, male or female, since Gary Lineker in 1986, she helped take the team past the opening game and will hopefully keep up the impressive work through to the finals.
Anya Shrubsole of the women’s England cricket team simultaneously had the performance of her lifetime and practically won the team the Women’s World Cup. As bowler, she took 5 wickets in 19 balls in an unbelievable game against India in which they won by 9 runs. She finally accomplished her childhood dream of playing in the World Cup final, and took it one step further by winning.
The women’s England rugby team looks set for another victory this year. Defending champions of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, the squad includes 15 of the players who brought the team triumph in 2014. Sarah Hunter, captain of the team, is one such player and was announced World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year last year. She has shown amazing stamina since her England debut 10 years ago, playing for the squad 90 times and counting.
Para-sport athlete Kadeena Cox became the first British athlete since 1988 to win medals in two sports, hers being cycling and athletics, within the same Games last summer in Rio. Now focussing more on athletics, she has secured Britain their 14th gold medal of these World Para-Athletics Championships in the T38 400m. Having had a stroke aged 23 and subsequently being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, Cox makes one convincing testimony against the FA’s views of women’s physical abilities back in 1921.
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