On Sunday, July 7, the entire world watched as the U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team won the 2019 FIFA World Cup against the Netherlands. A record-breaking 14 million Americans watched the final game via Fox broadcasting. Other matches in the tournament also achieved record-breaking viewership in several other countries such as the Netherlands, France, Brazil, and England. Millions of people around the globe supported the women’s teams. It is hard to imagine that it was not very long ago when women around the world were banned from playing soccer.

England, 1921: The Football Association banned women from playing due to the belief that “football is quite unsuitable for females…”

Brazil, 1941: A government decree forbid women against competing in a wide variety of sport including soccer because they were “not suitable for the female body”

Germany, 1955: Women are banned from soccer on the grounds that “…this aggressive sport is essentially alien to the nature of woman.”

Spain, 1935: Women are forbidden to play soccer for reasons similar to those listed above.

The United States never banned women from playing soccer but did little to support them either. St. Louis is considered to be the home of the first official women’s soccer league in the United States. In 1950, a small league of about 70 young women who expressed an interest in the game were divided into four teams, and thus the league was born. Even as soccer was becoming more popular among women, it wasn’t until Title IX was passed in 1972 that the law mandated schools provide equal support to women’s sports. Since then, the game has flourished in the United States. In China, 1991 the United States won the first FIFA Women’s World Cup against Norway.

While all the countries listed above have since lifted the bans on women’s soccer, it is critical to continue support for women’s sports around the globe. Sports are not just an after-school pastime but a means of allowing girls to grow up into strong, confident leaders. The U.S. Department of State believes in the power of sports diplomacy to bring individuals together from different backgrounds and foster mutual understanding. Initiatives such as the Global Sports Mentoring Program. Young women are chosen from around the world to tackle problems facing women and girls in their home communities through sports and the supporting mentorship of nonprofit and athletic professionals.

Click here to learn more about sports diplomacy and the Global Sports Mentoring Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. 

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