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Women’s football

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Introduction

As the FIFA Women's World Cup approaches the end of the tournament, we look at the rise in the popularity of female only football. We hear about the history of the women's sport in the UK and around the world and what progress has been made since the FA banned women's matches in 1921. You can learn some related vocabulary along the way too.

This week's question

When was the first official women's football world cup?

A: 1970

B: 1988, or

C: 1991

Listen to the programme to find out the answer.

Vocabulary

a struggle

word used to describe something that is difficult to do and might involve a lot of hard work or conflict

(to have) agency

being able to act independently and make your own choices

a backlash

a strong negative reaction to something

to dampen enthusiasm (for something)

to make people less interested in something

to ban

to use rules to stop something from continuing to happen

(to make) a concerted effort (to do something)

to try really hard to do something

Transcript

Note: This is not a word for word transcript

Catherine

Hello. This is 6 Minute English I'm Catherine.

Sam

And I'm Sam.

Catherine

Now Sam, have you been watching the World Cup?

Sam

Cricket or football? Because they are both being played at the moment

Catherine

They are. Now I'm talking about football, the Women's World Cup.

Sam

In that case, yes, I have. I've really enjoyed it and it's been great that finally we can watch the matches live on TV and that there has been so much interest in the media.

Catherine

We'll be finding out a little bit more about the history of women's football in England in today's programme, but first, Sam, a question for you. When was the first official woman's football World Cup?

A: 1970

B: 1988, or

C: 1991

What do you think, Sam?

Sam

Well I think I can get this through mathematics rather than knowledge, so I'm not going to say it right now, but I'll tell you later.

Catherine

OK. Well I will tell you the answer later in the programme. Now, Gemma Clarke is a writer on women's football in England and she spoke recently on the BBC Woman's Hour Programme. Here she describes the reaction throughout the years to women's football. Has it been easy for the women's game in England?

Gemma Clarke

Women's football has really been a struggle to play, to have any kind of agency and to be taken seriously as athletes. That can be seen throughout history. I think every moment that women's football has had, you know there's been a kind of, a backlash afterwards or a kind of an attempt to keep women back and to dampen enthusiasm for the sport.

Catherine

So, it's not been easy, has it?

Sam

No, she said it's been a struggle, which means it's been difficult to make any progress.

Catherine

And she also mentioned that there was no agency in the women's game. To have agency means you have control over your own situation, you can make the decisions you want to make. So she's saying that the women's game didn't really have control over its own future.

Sam

Every time they had some success, there was a backlash, there was a negative reaction to their success.

Catherine

That's right and she goes on to say that people tried to dampen enthusiasm for the sport. They tried to make it difficult for people to see and enjoy it. So who tried to dampen enthusiasm and how did they do it? Well, during and after the First World War, women's football became really popular with crowds of up to 50,000 watching games. It may have been popular with the crowds, but it wasn't so popular with the men who ran the game, the English Football Association. Here's Gemma Clarke again.

Gemma Clarke

The men's football association were panicked by seeing women doing so well and they banned all women from playing football on association grounds and that lasted for about 50 years. It was a very concerted effort to keep women's football at amateur status and ensure that there weren't crowds watching them play.

Catherine

So the men were really worried by the success of the women's game. They thought that it might take money and supporters away from the men's game.

Sam

So they banned woman from playing on their pitches. This means that they no longer allowed them to use the pitches anymore. This effectively killed the professional women's game as up to then they had been using the same facilities as the men.

Catherine

This she says was a concerted effort to restrict women's football. When you make a concerted effort to do something it means that you try really hard to do it. I'm pleased to say that the ban on woman using Football Association pitches was eventually lifted, although only comparatively recently, in 1971. Right, before we review today's vocabulary, let's have the answer to today's question. So I asked you, Sam, when was the first official Women's World Cup? Was it...

A: 1970

B: 1988, or

C: 1991

And you said Sam that you were going to work this out with maths - so come on then.

Sam

I did! So, I know the World Cup is held every four years, it's 2019 now, so the answer must be an odd year - bear with me - which makes it 1991. Am I right, Catherine?

Catherine

Well we'll see if that mathematical approach is any better than actually just knowing the answer. The first World Cup for women was actually held in .....

Sam

Come on, hurry up! Let me out of my misery.

Catherine

1970

Sam

I can't believe I got that wrong

Catherine

But, it wasn't an official tournament. The first officialwomen's world cup was indeed 1991. Your maths worked. So well done Sam and everybody else who got that right. Now, before we get to extra time and penalties, let's recap today's vocabulary.

Sam

A struggle is how you can describe something that is very difficult to achieve, something you have to fight for.

Catherine

To have agency means being able to act independently and have control over your own choices.

Sam

A backlash is a strong negative reaction to something.

Catherine

If you try to dampen enthusiasm for something, you try to make people less interested in it.

Sam

Banning something means using certain powers to stop something from happening.

Catherine

And finally, making a concerted effort means trying really hard.

Sam

Well the final whistle has blown for us today. We'll see you again soon and don't forget to look out for more from the BBC Learning English team online, on social media and on our app. Bye for now.

Catherine

Bye!

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