The 9th edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, set to start from July 20th 2023, has evolved from being a mere women’s invitational tournament to a “well and truly established” entity.
Historical accounts show that women have been playing Football since the early 19th century; yet FIFA initiated the Women’s Football World Cup 61 years after the start of the Men’s World Cup. The 9th edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup will be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand from July 20 to August 20 2023.
Precursors of FIFA Women’s World Cup
The first instance of a Women’s World Cup, in the form of an international competition among female athletes, dates back to 1970 in Italy. The Independent European Female Football (FIEFF), an organistaion based in Turin, staged the event. Among the seven participating teams, Denmark emerged champion.
This was followed by another women’s tournament in Mexico in 1971. Denmark again emerged champion in the tournament defeating Mexico 3-0.
Though, no further international women’s football tournaments occurred, women’s soccer leagues continued in the early- to mid-1980s through Mundialito, which in Spanish means Little World Cup. These were were smaller, invitational tournaments whose first edition was hosted by Japan and the next four editions by Italy.
In the meantime, several Asian countries also started Women’s Football, leading to the emergence of new national teams. In 1986, a major development occurred when Norwegian delegate Ellen Wille, considered as the Mother of Women’s Football, spoke before the 45th FIFA Congress in Mexico. She used her moment in the spotlight to demand better promotion of Women’s Football.
FIFA agreed to the demand but was not convinced to lend the World Cup branding to Women’s Football. Rather, the association staged a women’s invitational tournament in China in 1988 with 12 teams. The tournament was a huge success with Norway emerging victorious. The success of the event ultimately persuaded FIFA to approve Women’s World Cup.
FIFA Women’s World Cup came into existence
The first official World Cup took place in 1991 in China with FIFA naming the tournament as World Championship for Women’s Football for the M&M’s Cup. Again, twelve teams competed in the event; this time United States of America defeated Norway 2-1 in the final.
The final, at the Tianhe Staidum in Guangzhou, was witnessed by 65,000 spectators, which eventually led FIFA’s then-president João Havelange to declare, “women’s football is now well and truly established.”
This year the FIFA Women’s World Cup will be held in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time. Australia and New Zealand will co-host the tournament with 32 participating teams. The prize money has been raised from $30 million in 2019 to $150 million in this edition. With more than a million tickets sold, this year’s World Cup will become the most attended standalone women’s sporting event in history.
In the previous eight editions, the USA have won four World Cup titles while Germany have won two. Japan and Norway have won one title each.
Brazil’s Marta, the six-time World Player of the Year winner, holds the record for the most goals scored in Women’s World Cup with 17. Germany’s Birgit Prinz and Abby Wambach are joint-second with 14 goals each.