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Globalising Women’s Football

Europe, Migration and Professionalization


Jean Williams

With an estimated 26 million female players globally (6 million based in Europe), the evolution of football has been dramatic. Growth in the women’s game has led to more widespread player migration as new forms of professionalism emerge. This work explores those patterns of movement into, and out of, Europe using new archival evidence and player interviews.


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Micro, Meso and Macro Professionalism 53


Micro, Meso and Macro Professionalism ,SOD\IRRWEDOODQG\RX",FKVSLHOHIRRWEDOOXQGX" 1. Introduction An academic survey of European women’s work spanning the last three FHQWXULHVGHVFULEHGWKLVDVD©KLGGHQKLVWRU\ª6LPRQWRQ3URIHV- sional women football players are part of this unknown story. Perhaps this LVEHFDXVHRIWKHVLJQL¿FDQFHRIDPDWHXULVPDVDSUHYDLOLQJHWKRVLQVSRUW until the 1960s. Another newly-released academic survey by Deborah Si- monton Women in European Culture and Society does makes reference to the rise of the female global sports star, beginning with Suzanne Len- glen’s rather shocking appearance in short skirt, bandeau and sleeveless dress at Wimbledon in 1919 (2011: 386). There is, however, no mention of football until ten pages before the end of the book. Given that the sub- title of the book is Gender, Skill and Identity from 1700, we are reminded WKDWIRRWEDOODVDVSRUWKDVRIWHQVWRRGIRUPRGHUQLW\VLQFHLWVFRGL¿FDWLRQ from 1863 onwards. Historic exclusion has made this especially the case for women football players. Nevertheless, it is often helpful sometimes to look at the wider context of female patterns of employment to help us understand what happens in sport. 2IWHQGHVFULEHGDVDSURGXFWRIVRFDOOHG©VHFRQGZDYHªIHPLQLVPRI the 1970s playing football seemed to combine the invasion of traditionally ©PDOHVSDFHVªVXFKDVWKHSLWFKDQGWKHORFNHUURRPZLWKVLJQVRIDQDV- sertive physicality on behalf of women with enough stamina to compete in a contact sport for ninety minutes. However, this can be overly determinis- tic, in that my previous research indicated that most of the women playing DWWKLVWLPHGLGQRWGH¿QHWKHPVHOYHVDVIHPLQLVWVRUDVSROLWLFDOO\DFWLYH They simply had been introduced to football, enjoyed playing and did what they had to do in order to participate at whatever level of intensity they chose (Williams...

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