An International Women’s Day event
This July, England will be hosting the UEFA Women’s EURO, with 31 matches played across 26 days by 16 competing teams. The tournament plans to be a ticket selling record-breaker and leave a lasting legacy of more women and girls of all ages playing the beautiful game.
On this year’s International Women’s Day, the European Parliament’s office in London honours the pioneers of the women’s international game. A panel of ground-breaking women footballers, who played in England, Scotland, Italy, France and Sweden, will be guided by Professor Jean Williams through a celebration of their four decades of play, spanning from the late 1950s through to the mid-90s. The history of women’s football is often hidden, yet evidence shows the transfer of female players between England and France as early as the 1920s. The event will focus on this movement and migration of players and ideas across Europe, either side of the lifting of the (English) ban on the women’s game in 1971.
No matter who you’ll be cheering on this summer, this is an opportunity to reflect on the past, enjoy the achievements of a group of very determined women, and share your hopes and dreams for the future of women in sport.
Professor Jean WILLIAMS is the world's leading historian on women's football, having written for FIFA, UEFA, and a number of national football associations. She is author of A History of Women's Football (Pend and Sword, 2021) and will be lead historian on a national project to celebrate this year’s UEFA Women’s EURO.
Kerry DAVIS represented England at the inaugural women's Euros in 1984, which they narrowly lost on penalties over a two-leg final to Sweden. This was England women's highest result until 2009. She continued to play internationally for England (82 caps in total) and was their top scorer until 2012.
Tomasz FRANKOWSKI MEP is a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), who was elected in 2019 for the Civic Platform party. He currently sits on the Education and Culture Committee. A former professional footballer, he played as a striker with 168 goals in 302 matches for the team Ekstraklasa, and is the Polish league's third highest all-time scorer. He also played in France, Spain and the UK (for Wolverhampton Wanderers). Tomasz is a co-chair of the Sports Group in the European Parliament.
Rose REILLY MBE began to play in the early 1960s and went on to play professionally through to 1995, including places on both the Scotland and the Italian national women's football team. After making her debut for Stewarton Thistle, she went on to play for Reims, in France, and for Milan, where she won two league titles.
Pia SUNDHAGE is head coach of the Brazil national women’s team, moving to Brazil in 2019 after seven years coaching the Swedish National Team, winning Olympic Silver in 2016. Previously, Sundhage was the head coach of the United States women's national team from 2008 to 2012 and led the team to two Olympic gold medals and a silver medal at the World Cup. Pia’s playing career spanned from 1978 to 1999 playing for teams in Sweden and Italy. She was part of the winning Swedish national team in the inaugural Women’s EURO in 1984.
Margaret Shepherd nee Taylor (Tiny), had a playing career spanning 1967-73 with the Manchester Corinthians. This took her across all of the UK and to France where she was part of the winning team for the Reims Trophy, beating Juventus in the final in July 1970. The team were also winners of the Deal tournament twice.
Margaret Whitworth (Whitty), also played for the Corinthians, from 1958-73. During this time, she played in the Netherlands, South America, Italy, Tunisia, France and all over the UK, starting her touring career aged just 14. The South America tour was particularly pioneering for its time.
The event is co-ordinated by Caterina LORIGGIO , a cultural consultant currently acting as Arts and Heritage Lead for the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022. Previous roles have included Creative Programmer for London 2012 and Senior Parliamentary Campaign Manager for the Houses of Parliament 2015 anniversaries programme.