1971 Women's World Cup (partially found footage of international football matches; 1971)

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Denmark Captain Lis Westberg Pedersen lifting the trophy in front of a record audience for a women's sporting event.

Status: Partially Found

The 1971 Women's World Cup was the second international football tournament established by the Federation of Independent European Female Football (FIEFF). Occurring in Mexico from 15th August to 5th September, Denmark would defeat Mexico 3-0 in the Final to defend its title it won the previous year. The tournament proved extremely popular in Mexico, attracting world record attendances for women's sport. Additionally, it is known that all matches featuring the host country were fully televised live, courtesy of Televisa’s Canal 2.


FIEFF had previously held a World Cup in Italy the year before, with Denmark defeating the hosts 2-0 in the Final.[1][2][3] The inaugural Women's World Cup was declared a success, with the Final attracting around 40,000-50,000 at the Stadio Comunale.[4][1][2][3] Additionally, Mexico, who placed third after losing its Semi-Final match with Italy 2-1 but having beaten England 3-2 in the third place play-off, was declared the surprise package of the tournament.[1][3]It stirred interest in the North American country regarding hosting the subsequent Women's World Cup, having also hosted the men's 1970 World Cup.[5][6][4]

The country therefore bid for hosting duties against Luxembourg, Spain, Switzerland, and West Germany, with the main objections surrounding the Mexican bid being concerns over how the altitude and temperature may affect the players.[6][5] After Mexico invited Italy for two re-matches against the Mexican women's national football team and another against Club América during October 1970, FIEFF confirmed that Mexico would host the tournament.[6][5] Women's football subsequently received significant television and media coverage in the build-up to the World Cup, something the game had never received to such an extent.[6][5]

Both FIFA and the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) objected to the tournament.[7][5][6] While FIFA apparently recognised the rising interest in the women's game, it still found the concept outrageous and refused to establish a Women's World Cup until women's football was fully "controlled by national associations."[5][7][6] Likewise, FMF refused to allow women's teams to utilise its fields and training facilities, with threats of fines of 25,000 pesos for doing so.[5][7] It is believed by El Heraldo de México that FIFA's objections were based around ensuring the men's teams remained the stars of the big stadiums, as this would protect its business interests compared to the largely unsanctioned women's football, which could have been completely influenced by promoters.[5]

Nevertheless, FIEFF continued its preparations, hosting several qualifying matches.[8][5] Despite not recognising the tournament, FIFA did recognise its first women's international match, a qualifier in June 1971 between France and the Netherlands.[9][8][5] France defeated the Netherlands 4-0 to qualify for the World Cup.[5][8] Meanwhile, England and Italy beat Austria 3-0 and 6-0 respectively, and Argentina qualified after Costa Rica withdrew to be the sole South American representatives in the tournament.[8] Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and West Germany could not compete due to visa and cost issues, while attempts to get Brazil and Chile into the World Cup came to nothing.[5][8] England initially did not qualify as they were pitted in a group with Italy, losing 7-0 to them.[10][8] However, the withdrawal of other teams allowed them to gain a place.[8][5][7]

The 1971 Women's World Cup commenced from 15th August to 5th September.[8][5][4][6] It is declared by sources like the BBC as being the first instance where women's football truly reached the mainstream.[11][4][5][7] Thanks to sponsorship from Martini Rosso, and an intense marketing campaign which saw ramped television and print media coverage, resulted in the tournament attracting almost as much attention in Mexico as the men's 1970 World Cup.[12][5][4][7][11] For instance, the opening game between Mexico and Argentina drew at least 80,000, with some figures putting it closer to 100,000.[5][4][8] Other games frequently attracted over 20,000, with games featuring Mexico typically nearly selling out.[5][4][11][7][8]

The Final at Azteca Stadium drew a record audience for women's sport at 110,000.[4][5][12][7][11][8] For context, no men's or women's European Championship match has come close to that figure, with the record attendance for a European Championship game being the England-Germany EURO 2022 Final, which drew 87,192.[4] The Mexico matches also received fully live television coverage in colour, thanks to backing from Televisa’s Canal 2, who also covered the opening ceremony.[12][4] This was a sharp contrast for a period where women's football was barely even recognised in most countries.[4][12][7] Naturally, the coverage still retained gender and cultural norms of the era, with some reports focusing on the women's appearance and femininity, while others criticised the occasional brutality as unladylike.[12][4][5][11][7]

Despite this, the teams were treated as national superstars throughout the tournament.[4][5][11][12] It was a surreal experience for many, including the England side.[13][4][11][10] In England, the tournament barely received any coverage, and when it did, it was often in mocking fashion.[4][13][11][7] However, the England Lionesses were treated as stars in Mexico, receiving mass coverage, frequent requests for autographs and photographs, and appeared on live colour television by facing Mexico in the group stages.[4][13][10] Upon returning home, the team was temporarily banned by the Women's Football Association with manager Harry Batt banned for life for appearing in an unsanctioned tournament.[10][4][13][11]

Ultimately, while the 1971 Women's World Cup was a major success, momentum in the sport in Mexico plummeted by 1972.[5][4][7][11] Futbolera hypothesised that the FMF taking over the sport in 1971 resulted in few resources being allocated to it, in favour of reviving a struggling men's team and ensuring gender norms were respected.[5][12][7] The Mexico team's later withdrawn demand for 1-2 million pesos to compete in the Final also attracted derision, although it should be noted that Mexico and the other teams received little-to-no income for their matches.[5][12] FIFA also still refused to take the women's game seriously.[7] Thus, women's football generally remained stagnant worldwide, and only through belated investment by FIFA, UEFA and other continental football bodies has the game begun to receive more mainstream attention in recent years.[4][12][13][7] FIFA refuses to recognise the Final's attendance, declaring its 1999 World Cup Final as having the biggest ever crowd for women's match at 90,185.[4][13]

The Matches

The opening match saw Mexico play Argentina on 15th August in Group 1.[8] María Eugenia Rubio took the lead for the hosts after 21 minutes, but Argentina's Angélica Cardozo equalised 13 minutes later.[8] However, a 30th minute goal from Patricia Hernández and a second Rubio strike 54 minutes in sealed an opening victory for Mexico.[8] Argentina's Marta Soler later accused the referee of denying a legitimate goal for her team, with other accusations emerging the path to the Final for Mexico was rigged so that profits could be maximised.[14] Argentina then faced England on 21st August, with the South American side's Elva Selva taking the lead seven minutes in.[8][10] Janice Barton equalised after 13 minutes, but would later be sent off after temporarily leaving the pitch so she could remove her shin pads.[8][10] Considering this was England's star striker, it effectively reduced any chances of England progressing.[13][10] Three further goals from Selva in the 31st, 34th, and 71st minutes sealed the win for Argentina.[8][13][10] Two England players were severely injured, and ended up in casts.[14]

A day later, Mexico defeated England 4-0, with two goals coming from Teresa Aguilar, and one apiece by Eréndira Rangel and Elsa Huerta.[8][13][10] Mexico and Argentina qualified for the Semi-Finals, while England would contend the fifth place play-off.[8][13][10] However, Argentina's campaign was compromised when a bus crash resulted in eight of their players receiving injuries.[14]

In Group 2, defending champions Denmark faced France on 18th August.[15][8] Thanks to a goal from Susanne Augustesen, and two from Lis Lene Nielsen in the 32nd and 67th minutes, the Danes would dominate proceedings to win 3-0.[8][15] France faced Italy three days later, where a strike from Elena Schiavo 23 minutes in sealed the victory for the latter.[8][15] Because of this, Italy and Denmark had already qualified for the Semi-Finals, but would face each other in a 1970 Final rematch a day later.[8][15] Notably, Italy allowed Denmark to board their bus after the latter's broke down in a Mexican desert partway to the stadium.[15] Helene Østergaard Hansen took the lead for Denmark, but Claudia Avon levelled proceedings 43 minutes in.[8][15] Neither side broke the deadlock, resulting in a draw.[8][15]

Because of a better result against France, Denmark topped the group and would face Argentina, while Italy competed against Mexico.[8][15] France and England competed for fifth on 28th August, with the Lionesses nursing several injuries and even relying on local players to fill in spaces.[8][10][11][13] Notably, Gracia González became the only woman to referee a match at this tournament.[8] Meanwhile, Barton returned for England, taking the lead after 10 minutes.[8][13] Armelle Binard equalised two minutes later, but Barton put England back in front after 16 minutes.[8][13] However, goals from Jocelyne Henry and either Marie-Christine Tschopp or Paula Rayner 22 and 32 minutes in respectively secured a narrow victory for France.[8][13][10]

The same day, Denmark thrashed a weakened Argentina 5-0, courtesy of a hat-trick from L. Nielsen, a 53rd minute goal from H. Hansen, and a 64th minute strike by Annette Frederiksen.[8][14] In a 1970 Semi-Final rematch, Mexico would gain revenge on Italy by beating them 2-1.[8][15] The night prior, Mexico fans generated noise all night directed towards the hotel the Italians were sleeping in, compromising their performance and energy levels heading into the game.[14] Despite this, Carmela Varone had taken the lead for the Italians six minutes in, but the team proved over-aggressive, conceding a penalty almost immediately.[8][15] Hernández converted the penalty to level proceedings, before scoring another penalty after 24 minutes to take the lead.[8] From there, Mexico edged out Italy to reach the Final.[8][15]

Allegedly, the Italians were furious with their loss; they accused the referee of ending the match a few minutes prematurely over apparent fighting, with the referee also having sent off manager Giuseppe Cavicchi after 26 minutes.[8] Italy also claimed two goals of theirs were denied, again providing allegations of rigging the road to the Final in Mexico's favour.[14] The Italians smashed up their dressing room post-game in anger.[15] In the third place play-off, held on 4th September, Italy defeated Argentina 4-0 courtesy of a hat-trick from Elisabetta Vignotto and a 63rd minute goal from Schiavo.[8][15]

Finally, in front of around 110,000 at the Azteca Stadium, Mexico played Denmark on 5th September, the hosts deciding that the applause from the crowd would be better than receiving the 1-2 million pesos.[5][12][8][15] To avoid a repeat of the crowd noise incident, the Danish Embassy worked to find Danish residents who would be happy to welcome the Denmark team for an overnight stay.[14] Ultimately, possibly due to a lack of training, Mexico considerably underperformed compared to their previous three games, although they were noted to have improved by the second-half.[5][12] Thus, Denmark dominated play, winning 3-0 courtesy of a hat-trick from Susanne Augustesen.[8][15][4][5][12]

What is remarkable is that Augustesen almost never made it to the World Cup.[16] As she was only 15 during the tournament (with several other players also noted for being under 18, England's Leah Caleb being the youngest at 13), Augustesen needed her parents' permission to travel.[16][4][11][13][14] Despite concerns of missing several school weeks, she was allowed to travel, enabling her to win the tournament for her country.[17][16][14] Following Augustesen's third goal, the Danes received a standing ovation from the crowd, a rare occurrence at the Azteca.[4] Hence, Denmark defended their title, and received some fanfare upon the team's return to the country at the Copenhagen City Hall.[17] However, the Danish Football Association did not recognise the team's 1970 and 1971 accomplishments due to them not being FIFA-sanctioned, and like many other football bodies, was apathetic towards the development of women's football at the time.[15][17][4] It would not be until 1991 that FIFA created its own Women's World Cup.[18]


As previously mentioned, all four of Mexico's games were televised live nationally and in colour by Canal 2.[12][4][13] Ultimately, despite the tournament's popularity, very little footage of the games remain. Among clips include a 2:42 video of the Mexico-Argentina game uploaded by the Associated Press, and a few videos of the Final. The latter videos helps affirm the 110,000 figure was not exaggerated.[13] Aside from this, a few amateur shots of the large crowds have also resurfaced. No footage of Mexico's games against England and Italy, nor any of the other matches, is known to have survived.



Highlights of Mexico vs Argentina.

Colour footage of the Final.

Black and white footage of the Final.

Women's Soccer Stories' documentary on the 1971 Women's World Cup (video in French, but English subtitles have been provided).

The One Show documenting and reuniting the England team.

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 RSSSF detailing the results of the 1970 Women's World Cup. Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  2. 2.0 2.1 Golditacco Aspillo detailing the 1970 Women's World Cup and its success (article in Italian). Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 La Lazio al Femminile summarising the 1970 Women's World Cup and Mexico's strong performance in it (article in Italian). Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 4.24 Common Goal detailing the strong media coverage which saw live television coverage of Mexico's matches, constant media reports, and record attendances for women's sport. Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 5.23 5.24 5.25 5.26 Futbolera detailing Mexico winning hosting duties for the tournament, the significant media coverage the tournament received, and the fall of women's football in Mexico by 1972. Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 The History of Women's Football detailing Mexico hosting the World Cup. Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 Girls Soccer Network detailing the tournament's success in spite of FIFA and FMF objections. Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 8.15 8.16 8.17 8.18 8.19 8.20 8.21 8.22 8.23 8.24 8.25 8.26 8.27 8.28 8.29 8.30 8.31 8.32 8.33 8.34 8.35 8.36 8.37 8.38 8.39 RSSSF detailing the results of qualifying and the final tournament. Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  9. FIFA declaring the France-Netherlands game as the first official women's international football match. Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 History of Soccer detailing England's time in the tournament and subsequent banning by the Women's Football Association. Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  11. 11.00 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 11.11 BBC News declaring the 1971 Women's World Cup as the first time women's football really reached the top, also detailing England's appearances at the tournament. Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  12. 12.00 12.01 12.02 12.03 12.04 12.05 12.06 12.07 12.08 12.09 12.10 12.11 12.12 Sport in History chapter detailing the attendance figures and coverage provided by Canal 2, while also providing a detailed review of media coverage during the Cup. Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  13. 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 13.11 13.12 13.13 13.14 13.15 13.16 History Extra detailing the Cup, primarily focusing on England's time in the tournament. Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 14.8 Women's Soccer: The Official History of the Unofficial World Cups providing a detailed account of the tournament, and various little-known facts about it. Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  15. 15.00 15.01 15.02 15.03 15.04 15.05 15.06 15.07 15.08 15.09 15.10 15.11 15.12 15.13 15.14 15.15 The Guardian detailing Denmark's road to the Final. Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Mondial : Football Club Geopolitics summarising the tournament and Augustesen's success. Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 BT detailing Augustesen's time in the tournament and scoring the hat-trick in the Final (article in Danish). Retrieved 9th Dec '22
  18. US Sport History detailing FIFA finally creating its own Women's World Cup, 20 years following the unofficial 1971 edition. Retrieved 22nd Feb '23