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UEFA EURO 2017 -- a shop window for women's football

Panini have created a first-ever sticker album for a women's european championship (Photo: Panini)
by Maryanne Orr, AIPS Young Reporter, Scotland

UTRECHT, July 15, 2017 – For the first time in history, a supporter of women’s football in Scotland can go to the local shop and buy a Panini sticker album featuring Scottish players.

After the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Panini teamed up with UEFA Women's EURO 2017 to support the “continuing rise of the women’s game.”

However, even buying the sticker album had its limitations since it was not on obvious display but hidden away behind the counter.

Such minor occurrences in a shop in Scotland reflect, on a small scale, the massive growth in women’s football albeit with a reminder of the barriers which still exist.

Glimpses of football have been present in history for millennia, with men and women participating, and even royalty - Mary Queen of Scots and her courtiers - enjoying a kick-about.

Only in the late 1800s were matches involving women first recorded on British soil. Scotland led the way in 1892 with England following closely, recording a first women’s match in 1895.

Within decades of the founding of some of the world’s most famous clubs, women’s teams emerged in Britain but it took the might of a war for female football to make it appearance in the limelight.

As the men left for war so women stepped up to fill the many vacant roles, including those on a football pitch.

Although the reasons were said to be for health benefits, the women taking to the field brought an element of skill which quickly turned their game into entertainment.

The emergence of trailblazing teams such as Dick, Kerr’s Ladies and star player Lily Parr set the stage for women all over the country.

Scoring hundreds of goals and attracting mass crowds of thousands, even comparable with men’s crowds today, women’s football was on the cusp of a revolution.

After the war, however, the Football Association decided to prohibit women from playing on their clubs’ pitches. The roar of women’s football had settled to a hum but was not completely drowned out as teams and leagues searched for other ways to continue, some opting for rugby parks.

Fast forward half a century and while footballing legend Lily Parr celebrated her 66th birthday, UEFA opened its eyes to the issue of governing women’s football.

In 1971, the European federation proposed that all member associations should take control in governing the women’s game domestically. An overwhelming majority voted in favour, 31-1. The one nation which voted against, was Scotland.

Despite this resistance, women in Scotland continued to play under the governance of SFWA for three years before the SFA followed the example of its fellow UEFA members and lifted its ban on hosting women’s football.

It was another quarter of a century before a Scottish women's league was formed under SFA auspices and so began the domestic dominance of Kilmarnock, followed by 10-in-a-row champions Glasgow City. Now Erin Cuthbert, from a little town in Ayrshire, lines up at Chelsea Ladies alongside some of the biggest names in the game.

Now the launch of UEFA Women's EURO 2017, with Scotland making their debut at the finals, indicates that there is so much more still to come for women’s football.

Follow Maryanne Orr on Twitter @_maryanneee

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