The fascinating history of the Women's World Cup

National Football Museum

The hidden history of early unofficial tournaments to the global phenomenon of today, as told through objects from the National Football Museum.

1970 Coppa del Mondo poster, 1970, From the collection of: National Football Museum
1970 Coppa del Mondo
Long before FIFA got involved in the women's game, FIEFF - Federazione Internazionale Europea Football Femminile - staged their own unofficial Women's World Cup in Italy. The tournament, sponsored by Martini & Rossi, drew significant crowds. This poster advertised a quarter-final tie between Denmark and Czeckoslovakia, but the latter had to withdraw prior to the tournament, reportedly due to visa issues. The Danes would go on to win the competition, defeating the host nation 2-0 in the final.
1971 Women's World Cup pennant, 1971, From the collection of: National Football Museum
1971 Campeonato de Fútbol Femenil
The following year, sponsors Martini & Rossi backed another 'Women's World Cup' competition, this time in Mexico. Interest in the tournament was high in the country after the men's World Cup, and the games attracted tens of thousands of spectators; in some cases, the attendances were reportedly closer to six figures. The mascot, Xochitl, was named after the Nahuatl word for flower, and featured across a range of merchandise, including keyrings, badges, t-shirts and pennants.

My journey to Mexico

Chris Lockwood was a teenager when she jetted off to Mexico as part of Harry Batt's England squad.

Leah Caleb's 1971 Women's World Cup medal, 1971, From the collection of: National Football Museum
1971 Campeonato de Fútbol Femenil
This is the medal awarded to all participants at the 1971 Women's World Cup in Mexico. This particular medal belongs to Leah Caleb, who was a 13-year-old right winger at the time of the tournament. She played for the British Independent Ladies - the England team in all but name, largely comprised of Harry Batt's Chiltern Valley Ladies side. They would ultimately finish bottom in the six-team tournament, but had done themselves and their country proud. Victory belonged to the Danish side, which once again defeated a host nation to be crowned champions.
1991 FIFA Women's World Cup poster, 1991-11, From the collection of: National Football Museum
1991 1st FIFA World Championship for Women's Football for the M&M's Cup
A host of 'Mundialitos', or 'Little World Cups', were staged throughout the 1980s, and FIFA tested the waters with an Invitation Tournament held in China in 1988. Following its success, plans were put in place to host an official women's world championship, though FIFA were reluctant to call it the World Cup at the time (hence the odd name!). The US won the first ever Women's World Cup, defeating Norway 2-1 in Guangzhou. A number of their players, including skipper April Heinrichs and young prospect Mia Hamm, signed this official tournament poster.
1991 FIFA Women's World Cup poster, 1991-11, From the collection of: National Football Museum

Kristine Lilly

Kristine Lilly would go on to become the most capped player in the sport. Fellow midfielder Julie Foudy also won two Women's World Cup medals, as well as two Olympic golds.

1991 FIFA Women's World Cup poster, 1991-11, From the collection of: National Football Museum

April Heinrichs

April was one third of the US' 'triple-edged sword' attack alongside Michelle Akers and Carin Jennings. Heinrichs netted four times in five games en route to victory.

1991 FIFA Women's World Cup poster, 1991-11, From the collection of: National Football Museum

Mia Hamm

Mia was 19 when she competed in the first Women's World Cup. By the time of her retirement 13 years later, she'd netted 158 goals for her country, as well as registering 144 assists.

1995 FIFA Women's World Cup ticket, 1995-06-10, From the collection of: National Football Museum
1995 FIFA Women's World Cup
England featured in their first official Women's World Cup in 1995. On the 10th June, England faced off against Nigeria with a place in the knockouts at stake. 1,843 spectators saw England secure a 3-2 victory in Karlstad, Karen Farley netting a crucial brace for the Lionesses. Their debut run in the tournament was brought to a halt by Germany in the quarter-finals. The Germans would make it to the final, but were themselves defeated by Norway.
1999 FIFA Women's World Cup poster, 1999, From the collection of: National Football Museum
1999 FIFA Women's World Cup
The United States was chosen as the host of the 1999 Women's World Cup after the success of the first Olympic women's football tournament at Atlanta '96. Public interest in the women's game was high in the States, and the hype and promotion of the tournament soon bore fruit. An average of 37,000 spectators flocked to various American football stadiums to watch the competition. Over 90,000 fans filled the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for the Women's World Cup final - it helped that the USA were one of the teams competing for the trophy!
Birgit Prinz's Germany shirt, 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup, 2003, From the collection of: National Football Museum
2003 FIFA Women's World Cup
The 2003 World Cup was hosted once again in the States, after a SARS outbreak prevented the tournament from being held in China. The hosts were favourites to defend their title, but lost in the semi-final to Germany. Birgit Prinz, wearer of this shirt, scored the last of the three goals, and was in the starting eleven as Germany clinched a golden goal victory over Sweden in the final. Prinz won both the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot, having topped the scoring charts with seven goals.
Fara Williams' England shirt, 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup, 2007, From the collection of: National Football Museum
2007 FIFA Women's World Cup
China belatedly hosted the tournament in 2007. England were drawn in a tough group, featuring previous world champions Germany and Japan, but secured passage to the knockouts with a 6-1 thrashing of Argentina. Central midfielder Fara Williams wore this shirt during the fixture, netting the Lionesses' third goal from the spot. However, she picked up a yellow card which ruled her out of the quarter-final, where England were defeated by the USA. Eight days later, Germany became the first team to successfully defend their title, overcoming Brazil 2-0 in Hongkou Stadium.
Panini's 2011 Women's World Cup Sticker Album, 2011, From the collection of: National Football Museum

2011 FIFA Women's World Cup sticker album

In 2011, Panini produced a Women's World Cup sticker album for the first time. It proved so popular that they had to print a million more stickers!

Panini's 2011 Women's World Cup Stickers (2), 2011, From the collection of: National Football Museum

Got, got, got...

Panini's 2011 Women's World Cup Stickers (2), 2011, From the collection of: National Football Museum

Got, got, got!

(We obviously don't need any of these, as they're all part of our collection!)

Megumi Takase's Japan shirt, 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, 2011, From the collection of: National Football Museum
2011 FIFA Women's World Cup
In 2011, Japan took the women's football world by storm. First, they knocked out hosts and holders Germany in extra time, then they defeated Sweden to reach the final. The much-fancied United States twice thought they'd won it, but were pegged back late in regulation and then extra time. The Women's World Cup final went to penalties for the second time ever, but the US did not triumph on this occasion as Japan ran out 3-1 winners in the shootout. Number 9 Megumi Takase played a small part in her nation's triumph, coming off the bench during their quarter-final win.
2015 FIFA Women's World Cup poster, 2015, From the collection of: National Football Museum
2015 FIFA Women's World Cup
The seventh official edition of the tournament was held in Canada, and would feature 24 teams, an increase from the 16 nations which competed in the 2011 Women's World Cup. Though generally a success, the use of artificial turf in searing heat was a prominent cause for concern prior to and throughout the tournament. Though the US team were the turf's most vocal opponents, it did not stop them from lifting the World Cup a third time, defeating holders Japan 5-2 in Vancouver.
Women's World Cup banner, WFA, Will Bindley & Eugene Noble, 2019, From the collection of: National Football Museum

2019 FIFA Women's World Cup
Banners produced by Will Bindley & Eugene Noble

This was inspired by a pennant from the Women's Football Association, the body that ran English women's football for over two decades.

Women's World Cup banner, St Helen Women's Football Club, Will Bindley & Eugene Noble, 2019, From the collection of: National Football Museum

2019 FIFA Women's World Cup
Banners produced by Will Bindley & Eugene Noble

The emblem of St Helen Women's Football Club, as featured here, was first conceived in a pub. It embodies the passion of those who devoted so much of their time to supporting the club and the game.

Women's World Cup banner, Ada Hegerberg, 2019, From the collection of: National Football Museum

2019 FIFA Women's World Cup
Banners produced by Will Bindley & Eugene Noble

Ballon d'Or Feminin winner Ana Hegerberg is one of the world's greatest players. She is not at the Women's World Cup, as she is protesting against inequality from the Norwegian Football Federation.

Women's World Cup banner, Lionesses, Will Bindley & Eugene Noble, 2019, From the collection of: National Football Museum

2019 FIFA Women's World Cup
Banners produced by Will Bindley & Eugene Noble

'Pourquoi pas les femmes?' means 'why not women?', calling for equality in the sport, while Change the Channel challenges pubs and bars to show the Women's World Cup.

Women's World Cup banner, France 2019, Will Bindley & Eugene Noble, 2019, From the collection of: National Football Museum

2019 FIFA Women's World Cup
Banners produced by Will Bindley & Eugene Noble

This banner draws inspiration from Liz Deighan's England Women cap, won against the French back in 1974.

2019 FIFA Women's World Cup banners

Artist Will Bindley on the nation's renewed sense of optimism and hope ahead of the Women's World Cup.

Women's World Cup graphic, 2019-01-14, From the collection of: National Football Museum
Charting the history of the women's game
You can discover more of the stories from the Women's World Cup, as well as learning about the wider significance of the women's game, at the National Football Museum. Find out how women's football became popular during wartime, and why it was banned in England for 50 years. All this and more is waiting in our permanent gallery displays.
Credits: Story

The National Football Museum is committed to telling the stories of women's football, from the Women's World Cup to the 'hidden history' of the English game. Follow the progression of the game across our galleries, with new objects and exhibits shedding new light on women's football.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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