Women’s game in France celebrates 100 years of existence
Country’s first all-female match took place in Paris on 30 September 1917
Ex-international stalwart Marinette Pichon: “We’ve come a long, long way”
With the First World War raging on, two women’s teams from Club Femina de Paris locked horns, led by two of the game’s pioneers, Therese Brule and Suzanne Liebrard. The event was covered by a daily sport newspaper, L’Auto, and while the final score and the details of the encounter have been lost in the sands of time, the match itself will go down in history as the starting point for women’s football in France.
"We’ve come a long, long way," French football legend Marinette Pichon told FIFA.com. "These days, we have significant structural and financial resources. We’ve got a great national team, thriving clubs, and exciting national and international competitions. There’s a lot of entertainment. It’s fantastic to see the sport reach such a high level."
There is no doubt that women’s football is flourishing at the moment. Indeed, things have changed so much that it is difficult to compare the situation today to previous eras. But the fact remains that it was not until 1970 onwards that women’s football truly began to develop; at that point nearly 2,000 players were registered by the French Football Federation (FFF), which officially recognised the discipline that year. In the wake of that decision, Les Bleues competed in their first FIFA-approved match on 17 April 1971, beating the Netherlands 4-0.
Since then, French clubs’ women’s sections have gone from strength to strength. Veritable stars – Pichon and Corinne Diacre, and then Sandrine Soubeyrand, Louisa Necib and Eugenie Le Sommer – came to the fore. French teams, led by four-time (2011, 2012, 2016 and 2017) UEFA Women’s Champions League winners Lyon, are now at the forefront of the European game. Attendances continue to grow, which augurs well for the Women’s World Cup, which France will host in 2019.
"We have to remain aware of what we can and can’t achieve," said Pichon. "Women’s football should not be looking to compete with the men’s game. But I’m positive that women’s football can still develop enormously, in the manner that it has managed to do so far. But we have to keep our feet on the ground and not get carried away. It’ll be a long process."
And that process was initiated exactly 100 years ago today.