Match: Italy 3–1 West Germany, 26 August 1984, Stadio Armando Picchi

Hosts Italy crush West Germany to claim Mundialito

Picture from the excellent History of Women's Football on Facebook

Picture from the excellent History of Women's Football on Facebook

Classic match report: Three first-half goals secure Italy’s win over patched-up West Germany

In August 1984 Italy beat West Germany 3–1 in the 1984 Mundialto Femminile final. A capacity crowd at the Stadio Armando Picchi in Jesolo saw goals from vaunted front three Carolina Morace, Rose Reilly and Betty Vignotto put the Italians ahead, before West Germany reduced the arrears in the second half through Anne Kreuzberg.

Gero Bisanz's inexperienced West Germany team were running on fumes by the time of the final – a lengthy injury list included Player of the Tournament Sylvia Neid. Notorious slow-starters Italy had lost 2–1 to the Germans in their opening Mundialito match but ran amok here to secure the silverware.

Along with several other members of the victorious Italian squad, Morace and Reilly played for Serie A champions Trani. At club level Ireland’s Anne O’Brien laid on most of the duo’s goals, but in the blue of Italy they supported Betty Vignotto. Veteran striker Vignotto had shrugged off a series of knee injuries to remain the national team’s headline act.

Footage of the entire match exists at the Calcio Donne website here (please give ’em the hits). The 3–1 result mirrored the 1982 FIFA World Cup final between the nations. Hapless Antonio Cabrini, the future Italian women’s coach, missed a penalty in that game.

The teams:


ITALIA
1. Eva Russo
2. Marisa Perin
3. Tiziana D’Orio
4. Maria Mariotti
5. Paola Bonato
6. Feriana Ferraguzzi
7. Viviana Bontacchio (out 78)
8. Carolina Morace (out 75)
9. Betty Vignotto (c)
11.Anna Maria Mega
16.Rose Reilly (out 66)

Substitutes:
10.Betty Secci (in 78)
13.Viola Langella (in 66)
15.Ida Golin (in 75)

Coach:
Ettore Recagni

DEUTSCHLAND
Marion Feiden .1
Elke Richter .2
(out 32) Christel Klinzmann .3
Monika Degwitz .4
Ingrid Zimmermann .5
Sissy Raith .6
(c) Rike Koekkoek .8
Petra Bartelmann .9
Anne Kreuzberg.11
Marie-Luise Gehlen.14
(out 69) Rosi Eichenlaub.16

Substitutes:
(in 69) Eva Schute.17
(in 32) Susanne Scharras.18

Coach:
Gero Bisanz

Clockwatch: Italy 3–1 West Germany as it happened


1. Italy kick-off here at a packed Stadio Armando Picchi in Jesolo.

3. The hosts start well with adopted Italian Rose “Relli” to the fore. They force an early free-kick on the edge of the box but make a complete mess of an elaborate training ground routine. A candidate for worst free-kick ever?

5. German number 9 Petra Bartelmann – with a bandaged thigh and hand – hits a tired shot on the turn. Italy’s 17-year-old goalkeeping prodigy Eva Russo touches it out for a corner, but the danger soon fizzles out.

Italy's teenage stopper Eva Russo

Italy’s teenage stopper Eva Russo

7. Some nice early touches for Germany’s keeper Feiden, who makes a brave save at the feet of Vignotto then plucks the resultant corner out of the air.

8. GOAL for Italy. Reilly’s skill on the left wing precedes a deep cross, turned in from close range by her lurking Trani club-mate Carolina Morace.

12. The Germans look to hit back as Kreuzberg wins a free-kick deep in Italian territory. It’s a lame dive by Germany’s blond number 11, who rolls around like a dying swan. The free-kick is hoofed high and wide.

17. Germany’s “sweeper-keeper” Feiden races from her goal-line to clear Marisa Perin’s long pass away from Vignotto. As a former outfielder with her club, Feiden has that in her locker.

19. GOAL for Italy. It’s 2–0 as Vignotto’s looping shot from the left crashes off the frame of the goal, only to be swept in by Rose Reilly at the far post.

23. It’s all Italy now. Morace shows great skill to step away from a couple of wild tackles in midfield. She finds rampaging winger Anna Maria Mega, who dinks the ball over the German crossbar.

27. A long stoppage here as German defenders Zimmermann and Klinzmann collide in the centre circle then languish on the deck. Number 5 Zimmermann, the sweeper, rises gingerly to her feet but treatment continues for number 3 Klinzmann who still looks groggy.

29. Penalty to Italy. Vivi Bontacchio – a diligent right midfielder in the Roberto Donadoni mould – tears down the line and fires in a cross. Morace is caught under the arc of the ball, but bumps dazed defender Klinzmann. Contact is minimal and it looks a very soft award: Italy’s ‘homer’ ref can hardly get the whistle to his lips quickly enough!

Penalty! Klinzmann and Morace on the turf

Penalty! Klinzmann and Morace on the turf

30. GOAL for Italy. Senior pro Vignotto pulls rank to take the kick: dispatching an unerring finish high down the middle of the goal. Poor Feiden has had no chance with all three Italian strikes.

32. Substitution for West Germany. Coach Gero Bisanz hooks the embattled Wolfsburg defender Christel Klinzmann and sends on number 18 Susanne Scharras. Can they stem the blue tide?

34. Curly-headed Italian goalie Eva Russo makes a great save, tipping over Degwitz’s fierce free-kick. Incredibly, the officials then signal for a goal-kick. German protests are muted – it’s just not going to be their day… Insouciant Russo trots off to collect the ball. She lets the centre-back take the kick, as is her wont.

40. More nonsense from comedy ref Zaza. He whistles for half-time exactly on 40 minutes despite the lengthy stoppages.

41. We’re back out here and Italy threaten to go further ahead: Reilly bursts through the German rearguard but drags her shot well wide of Feiden’s goal.

44. German coach Bisanz has switched things around for the second half, with partially-mummified number 9 Bartelmann now playing as a wing-back. Italy are unchanged.

43. Italy’s graceful libero Fery Ferraguzzi gets a last-ditch toe on the ball to deny Germany’s number 16 Rosi Eichenlaub. It’s the first we’ve seen in this match of Eichenlaub, who scored against Italy on the opening day. A big, strong outside-forward with hunched shoulders, she’s very difficult to stop when allowed time to turn and build up a head of steam.

44. Shortly after her excellent intervention, Ferraguzzi blots her copybook. She dithers on the ball and is indebted to youngster Russo who makes a great save.

44. GOAL for West Germany. Italy fail to clear their lines and Anne Kreuzberg lashes the ball into the net from the inside-right channel. Hit with pent-up frustration, it nestles in the far corner of the goal before startled Russo can react. That’s Bad Neuenahr forward Kreuzberg’s second goal on the occasion of her sixth cap.

46. Rattled by the goal, the Italian players babble and gesticulate as only Italians can.

47. Anna Maria Mega is hobbling after a hefty challenge. Another member of the Trani contingent, the left-sided tough-nut has certainly put herself about today. Looks like she’s okay to soldier on.

51. There’s been a real drop-off in the quality here. The players look fatigued which may explain the lack of movement. The game is also becoming pockmarked by niggly fouls.

53. Italy’s right-back Marisa Perin is flattened while defending a corner, but carries on while holding her ribs. She hasn’t really lived up to her terrifying nickname – the female Claudio Gentile – today. She looks a tidy full-back rather than a blood-splattered centre-half. In her day job she’s a farmer [insert gag about agricultural defending here].

55. Now Bontacchio is hurt by Zimmermann’s late tackle. Vivi is perhaps the last of the women’s football “Munitionettes”: she’s employed in a weapons factory.

60. Yellow card for West Germany. The game’s first booking had been coming. German skipper Rike Koekkoek enters the referee’s notepad for a gratuitous trip on Rose Reilly.

63. Play is held up while the German substitute Scharras seems to be in some discomfort. Looks like she might have cut her head.

64. Oh dear. Feiden spills an easy cross. The danger is averted but West Germany’s goalkeeper is having a proverbial ‘mare. She’ll go on to have much better days than this in her career, that’s for sure.

German netminder Marion Feiden (later Isbert)

German netminder Marion Feiden (later Isbert)

66. Substitution for Italy. Home coach Ettore Recagni looks to shore things up by replacing Rose Reilly with the more defensive Viola Langella. Yet another Trani player enters the fray.

67. West German boss Gero Bisanz will be bemused at the wilting of his midfield in this second half. He must be pondering a call-up for 16-year-old Duisburg wunderkind Martina Voss when the Euro qualifiers get back underway in October.

69. Substitution for West Germany. Big Rosi Eichenlaub’s race is run. She’s replaced with Eva Schute for the last ten minutes or so.

75. Substitution for Italy. Number 15 Ida Golin is on for Carolina Morace. Today’s opener was Morace’s fourth goal of the competition, securing her the capocannoniere ahead of prolific policewoman Linda Curl who scored three times for England.

78. Substitution for Italy. Two minutes left now and Italy are looking to run down the clock. Number 10 Betty Secci replaces Vivi Bontacchio, who takes a well-earned rest.

79. Late drama as Zimmermann hacks the ball off her own goal-line, narrowly avoiding a fourth goal for the dominant Italians.

80. Full-time. That’s it! Italy are champions of the 1984 Mundialito Femminile.

To the victor the spoils: the Mundialito trophies

To the victor the spoils: the Mundialito trophies

Winning captain Betty Vignotto with sinister Bride of Chucky-style mascot 'Paulina'

Winning captain Betty Vignotto with sinister Bride of Chucky-style mascot ‘Paulina’

Report: #SHEKICKSBACK 2, Doncaster, 23 November 2015

Walker, Smith and Coultard meet their public at Doncaster roadshow

On a rainy Monday night in November, the #SHEKICKSBACK roadshow rolled into Doncaster. Following an earlier event in London organisers chose Doncaster Belles territory for the second edition, in honour of the South Yorkshire giants’ proud history.A joint venture between women’s soccer bible She Kicks and Women’s Soccer Zone, #SHEKICKSBACK aimed to correct the perception that women’s football is rootless by publicly grilling big name players. It was manna from heaven for women’s football anoraks!

As well as being the editor of She Kicks, Jen O’Neill played to a high standard with Sunderland. The north-easterner is steeped in the game. So she was uniquely qualified to pull off the event and did an excellent job as host and interviewer.

Kieran Theivam who runs Women’s Soccer Zone was a sort of compère. Sharp-suited and clutching his iPad, Theivam greeted you in his soothing podcast voice then ticked you off the digital register.

With O’Neill on this momentous occasion were Belles legend Karen Walker and chirpy TV scouser Sue Smith, as well as a very special mystery guest…

 

Crowd:


The great and good of this famous old club descended on Doncaster’s Cask Corner Dive Bar, resulting in a healthy turnout. Everywhere you looked sparked vague flickers of recognition, faces who grin out from photos of Belles triumphs in years gone by. Gail Borman a prime example.

Janet Milner’s shock of blonde hair was also in evidence, a familiar sight for regulars at the Keepmoat where she is a steward. Goalie Milner was herself capped by England before a knee injury scuppered her Belles career and she turned her hand to coaching little ‘uns.

Legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly famously invited the press corps to circumnavigate his strapping new centre-half Ron Yeats. In much the same way, guests had to circumnavigate Belles’ current skipper Leandra Little to get to the bar!

Other dignitaries included founder Sheila Edmunds, high-powered exec Faye Lygo and influential fans’ chief Sarah Maye. There was a smattering of youngsters, who must have been youth teamers, some with their dads.

It all added up to a very special vibe, if not an aura. If the #SHEKICKSBACK roadshow rolls round to Doncaster again there’s surely fertile ground for a follow up.

Venue:


A range of drinks were available with Peroni (£4) among the offerings. On one occasion Peroni’s barrel needed changing so a Czech alternative, named Zot, or similar, was pressed into action. The crisps were of the premium, kettle chip variety: thick and crunchy but with a somewhat oily aftertaste.

The bubbly barmaid addressed customers as Doll. It seemed like a quaint Doncastrianism but subsequent checks with genuine Doncaster folk trashed this theory. The cosy venue afforded a handful of seats in three short rows as well as one or two comfy pleather sofas and standing room at the back.

Bizarre decor (“random tat” was overheard) adorned the walls and was suspended from the ceiling. Worryingly, one such item was a dusty scythe – which ensured grisly Final Destination-style visions marred the evening for those underneath.

Karen Walker:


First up was Karen, or Kaz, Walker and it quickly became clear why the organisers had sought her out. She was a straight-talking embodiment of what journos term “good value”.

She quipped that no-one understands her Barnsley accent, even in Hull where she works as a cop. Throughout proceedings, extroverted Walker called it exactly as she saw it. As well she might. No offence to Hull, but its hard to imagine too many shrinking violets policing its gritty streets!

She joined the Belles as a teen because her next door neighbour Karen “Skiller” Skillcorn was already there. After the centre-forward (this must be Lorraine Hanson?) got pregnant Walker nailed down a regular place up front. She soon discovered a happy knack for rattling in goals.

Walker voiced a suspicion that the best players in the South would all hop from team to team, congregating at places like Fulham and Millwall. All part of a dastardly plot to try and topple the Belles.

It does have a ring of truth about it. Remarkably Sallie Jackson won three successive WFA Cups with three different Southern teams in ’84, ’85 and ’86, dumping the Belles in all three finals. Perhaps a future edition of #SHEKICKSBACK will track down Jackson for the other side of the story?

Walker said she was taken to the 1988 Mundialito tournament for squad experience, but was pressed into action when Jane Stanley fainted during the first match. She scored with her first touch in England’s 3–0 win over hosts Italy’s B team.

She remained proud of her record – surely never to be broken – of hitting a hat-trick in every round of the FA Women’s Cup, including the final. This got the first clap of the night. Although she’d forgotten the year and the opposition (It was Red Star Southampton in 1992, fact fans).

In a surprising development, Walker namechecked the recent FAWPL Charity Trophy match in Stratford as one of the best moments of her career. Her face lit up as she described how magical it was to be reunited with old pals from bygone England days. Brenda Sempare got a mention in this context.

O’Neill asked about the time England boss Ted Copeland summarily bombed Walker out. Instead of buttonholing her after training or picking up the phone, Copeland instead typed up and posted Walker a litany of alleged defects in her game.

Sadly this intriguing piece of football history has been lost. Walker now sees the funny side, but still bristles at the suggestion that she didn’t work hard or wasn’t a team player. She wondered aloud if her habit of sticking up for others had left Copeland’s nose out of joint.

Copeland soon had egg on his face when Karen Farley, England’s other powerhouse forward, blew her knee out. That left veteran midfielder Hope Powell leading the line for England’s Euro 1997 qualification play-off against Spain in September 1996.

A toothless defeat cost England a place at the finals. There had even been chat of England hosting. All the experience, exposure and (probably) funding that would have gone with it went up in smoke. With the benefit of hindsight it was not one of Ted’s better decisions!

Despite all her success, Walker – a self-confessed Manchester United fan – admitted to limited actual football knowledge. She would implore her team-mates: “Just cross it in!” So she never went into coaching or kept up the punditry after dabbling at the 2007 World Cup.

Sue Smith:


Current Belle Sue Smith replaced Walker for the next segment, a different proposition with at least a couple more chapters still to be written in her own brilliant career.

She had a polished and relaxed speaking style, honed by her years of media work. On occasion O’Neill playfully teased behind the diplomatic responses: “What’s the non media-friendly answer?”

Smith became firm friends with Rachel Yankey, despite being rivals for England’s left-wing berth. The pals share a sunny disposition and a similar outlook on life. As dressing room young guns they were the practical jokers with a string of pranks behind them.

Special guest – Gill Coultard:


The night’s special guest was revealed as none other than ex-Belles and England stalwart Gill Coultard. After being clapped up onto the stage, Coultard’s answers were usually quieter and more considered than Walker and Smith’s – but just as engaging.

It was soon clear that, unlike Walker, deep thinker Coultard keeps bang up to date with the women’s football whirligig. Her eyes seemed to twinkle with pride as O’Neill expertly reeled off some career highlights.

The biggest cheer of the night went up for Coultard’s greatest achievement of all: beating breast cancer. Ten years cancer-free, she told the applauding audience.

It was no surprise. Week after week, year after year this great champion was out in the middle of the pitch waiting for the very best the opposition could throw at her.

As Coultard still had her finger on the pulse she could cover ground Walker couldn’t. Did she think money would spoil women’s football like the men’s? Things are heading that way. Did she think too many WSL foreigners could harm young English players’ development? It was a worry.

All three players displayed a startling lack of bitterness, considering today’s England players get everything on a plate and pull down serious spondulicks into the bargain. While acknowledging their own part in moving things on, they insisted they’d not swap a minute of their careers.

Audience questions:


The first question from the floor asked the panel how come they never signed for foreign teams. Smith, who at one time had American colleges falling over themselves, said she never fancied it as her family and mates took precedence.

Ditto Coultard and Walker, who dubbed themselves “home birds”. A knowledgeable comeback from the questioner mentioned Scots great Rose Reilly and the pro Italian league of the day.

Walker agreed that she would have made a decent fist of Serie A (like Reilly rather than costly flops like Luther Blissett and Mark Hateley). But she was just too proud to play for the best team in the country and too loyal to those who gave her the chance.

Next up: which male player were the panel most often compared to by the press? Walker and Coultard shot each other a glance and appeared to be stumped by this one.

Of course in Coultard’s case the correct answer to this question was Bryan Robson, or sometimes Sammy Lee. In many respects Coultard was the player ‘Captain Marvel’ Robson could have been, if he reined in the bevvying and stopped picking up daft injuries.

Smith demurred although at another point in the night she told an anecdote – about getting marooned in a rowing boat – which was striking in its similarity to a famous maritime mishap which befell Celtic’s Jimmy Johnstone. “Wee Jinky” would have approved of Smith’s skilful wing play.

Barrie Williams, briefly manager of England in 1991, once gave an interview hailing Walker as the female Kevin Keegan. Although that may have had more to do with the fashionable perm she was sporting at the time!

Another questioner had a slightly different twist on the same theme: which current player was most like the panelists themselves?

Fara Williams was Coultard’s verdict, as she praised the Liverpool midfielder’s influential displays at the recent World Cup. She was much too modest to say it, but perhaps Coultard could be described as marrying Williams’s finesse with a dash of Katie Chapman’s steel.

Walker came clean, saying she couldn’t answer as she hadn’t seen enough recent stuff. O’Neill ventured the name Julie Fleeting and said if only the Ayrshire hotshot had been English, Walker’s loss may not have been so keenly felt by the Lionesses.

Asked for her view, Belles supremo Sheila Edmunds shouted from the floor that neither the club nor England had ever replaced Walker. That’s probably true and you might need to widen the net to include recently-retired Yank Abby Wambach to find a recent facsimile of Walker’s all-action style.

Another fine exponent of getting across the pitch and defending from the front was Gutteridge, recently of Sunderland. Grafter Gutteridge stood out by playing with her hair down and never gave defenders a second’s peace, although she lacked Walker’s myriad other attributes.

Then came Women’s Football Archive’s moment in the sun: what were Walker and Coultard’s memories of their first England boss Martin Reagan?

With a chuckle they settled on “eccentric”, unimpressed by Reagan’s droll habit of teaming snug-fitting sports shorts with sensible dress shoes and socks. Walker also remembered her debut when the ball was blasted into Reagan’s face from close range. Remaining inscrutable, he never even flinched.

Both had obvious affection for the man who gave them their shot at being England players, albeit they weren’t too sure of his footballing credentials.

With a smile Coultard recalled Reagan’s strong faith. He would get WFA boss Linda Whitehead on the case wherever England were playing: “Have you found me a church yet Linda?”

During World War Two the mysterium tremendum et fascinans came upon Reagan in his tank after he cheated death. Then he witnessed the spectacle of three horses galloping across a field only for the middle one to be exploded by a land mine.

To be fair, if he wasn’t a religious man before his wartime exploits, you can see why he was afterwards!

Characters:


The names Becky Easton and Karen Burke cropped up in dispatches once or twice. They were scousers but adopted Doncastrians. Salt of the earth types who impressed everyone when they came to play for the Belles and wove themselves into the fabric of the club.

By all accounts Chantel Woodhead was every bit as kooky as her portrayal immortalised in Pete Davies’s I Lost My Heart to the Belles (1996). Tough Huddersfield lass Sam Britton got into countless scrapes down the years, the recollection of which raised laughs all round.

Just when it seemed nothing could top that, it was said that any stories involving Jo Broadhurst were off-limits. Too X-rated even for the post watershed audience. The mind boggles…

Epilogue:


It was the day before Sue Smith’s birthday, so a cake materialised amidst a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. Theivam bounded back on stage to announce the night’s proceeds were winging their way to a breast cancer charity.

With that it was out the doors and back to reality with a depressing thud. Freezing, horizontal rain battered the concrete dystopia of Doncaster town centre. A local simpleton harangued passers by as the grim A1 beckoned.

Ho hum. When’s #SHEKICKSBACK 3?

Mundialito Femminile ’84 – The Little World Cup

Martin Reagan’s beaten Euro 84 finalists square off against Belgium, West Germany and Italy in Jesolo and Caorle

Mundialito1984

In the days before the FIFA Women’s World Cup there was the Mundialito…

An invitational tourney along the lines of the latter day Cyprus or Algarve Cups, it was a much bigger deal than these annual seaside jollies: pulling in both bumper crowds and RAI TV coverage.

In summer 1984 football-daft Italians were beside themselves with glee, having carried off the 1982 World Cup and then sealed the 1990 hosting gig in May 1984. Their semi-autonomous women’s football federation (FIGCF) teamed up with the national Olympic committee (CONI) for this joint venture. As well as the national broadcaster and local authority, backing arrived from sportswear company Diadora and La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. All the participating teams’ costs were covered in full – music to the ears of England’s hard up WFA.

CONI’s interest was down to their suspicion that Olympic medals might be afoot – bringing an attendant funding bonanza. They were lobbying hard for Olympic women’s soccer and fancied their chances if it happened. At this stage the United States had no team (they debuted at the following year’s Mundialito) while newbies West Germany had only started their own programme 20 months earlier.

Jesolo was awarded city status in 1984, for services to local tourism. Big in the 70s, its 15 miles of sandy beach was a hot destination for new-fangled package holiday tours. Later on it repositioned itself as a bit classier and more expensive, probably to dodge the sad fate of Benidorm: hordes of braying louts in Union Jack shorts and diced carrots in its gutters.

Jesolo’s stadium was named for Armando Picchi, the great Inter Milan and Italy sweeper. Temporary stands brought the capacity up to a reported 6–8,000. The smaller stadium up the road in Caorle bore the name of Giovanni Chiggiato, a local landowner and worthy from the early part of the century. Matches were apparently played in the cooler evenings at 9.15pm and were 40 minutes each-way.

Results:

Group stage:

Date Venue Team 1 Score Team 2 Scorers
19 August Stadio Giovanni Chiggiato, Caorle Italy 1–2 West Germany ITA: Carolina Morace
FRG: Petra Bartelmann, Rosi Eichenlaub
20 August Stadio Armando Picchi, Jesolo England 1–1 Belgium ENG: Linda Curl
BEL: Carla Martens
21 August Stadio Giovanni Chiggiato, Caorle Italy 4–0 Belgium ITA: Carolina Morace, Betty Vignotto, Rose Reilly, Betty Secci
22 August Stadio Armando Picchi, Jesolo West Germany 2–0 England FRG: Silvia Neid (2)
23 August Stadio Giovanni Chiggiato, Caorle Belgium 2–0 West Germany BEL: TBC1
24 August Stadio Armando Picchi, Jesolo Italy 1–1 England ITA: Carolina Morace
ENG: Linda Curl

Third place play-off:

Date Venue Team 1 Score Team 2 Scorers
25 August Stadio Giovanni Chiggiato, Caorle England 2–1 Belgium ENG: Marieanne Spacey, Linda Curl
BEL: TBC (pen)

Final:

Date Venue Team 1 Score Team 2 Scorers
26 August Stadio Armando Picchi, Jesolo Italy 3–1 West Germany ITA: Carolina Morace, Rose Reilly, Betty Vignotto (pen)
GER: Anne Kreuzberg

Hors concours:

Date Venue Team 1 Score Team 2 Scorers
27 August Monfalcone Italy 1–3 England ITA: TBC
ENG: Angie Gallimore, Hope Powell, Pat Chapman

Stadio Armando Picchi:

Some public domain snaps of the stadium in Jesolo, taken in September 2015.

Team notes:

England

Since their gutsy defeat by Sweden in the Euro 84 final shootout, England had lost three loyal campaigners to international retirement. Irish-born goalkeeper Terry Irvine, left-back Maggie Pearce (née Kirkland) and original skipper Sheila Parker (née Porter) were all footballing mums. They went out with heads held high.

Martin Reagan was also without fleet-footed Euro 84 revelation Kerry Davis and midfield terrier Gillian Coultard, who was away on holiday. That gave an opportunity to some fresh blood, including teenaged future-greats Marieanne Spacey (18, Friends of Fulham) and Jo Broadhurst (16, Sheffield).

There were also debut caps for defenders Sallie Jackson (Howbury Grange) and Jackie Slack (Norwich). Slack had skippered Lowestoft to the 1982 WFA Cup. Cup specialist Jackson played alongside Slack in that game and repeated the feat in May 1984 with Howbury Grange.

A few of England’s players had been involved in a six-a-side curtain-raiser to an Everton v Liverpool Charity Shield clash at Wembley, staged the day before the Mundialito started. The bizarre knockabout pitted WFA Cup winners Howbury Grange against national 5-a-side champs Millwall Lionesses. St Helens and a Mersey/Wirral select were also roped in, a sop to the 100,000 scousers in attendance.

The Wembley exertions might explain the sluggish start from England, who fell behind in their opening match when Belgium’s Carla Martens ruthlessly capitalised on new girl Jackie Slack’s error.

Linda Curl brought England level after running onto a Brenda Sempare pass. It was the best possible tonic for Curl, who laid to rest the ghost of her Kenilworth Road penalty miss at the earliest opportunity.

England’s next match was an inauspicious 2–0 reverse at the hands of slick upstarts West Germany. Midfielder Silvia Neid, later named Player of the Tournament, put England to the sword with two well taken goals.

It was to be 31 long years, before Fara Williams’ 2015 World Cup penalty finally ended England’s German hoodoo. Neid, by then the unified Germany manager, was rendered incredulous by her team’s extra-time defeat and failure to land a bronze medal.

In the final group match against the Italian hosts, Linda Curl put England ahead in torrential rain. Morace hit back as the teams ground out an entertaining 1–1 draw in Jesolo. According to the WFA’s one-person media operation, the incomparable Cathy Gibb, Hope Powell “won the Italian crowd over with astounding delicate skills”.

The third place play-off saw another meeting with the underrated Belgians. Spacey lashed England ahead, but profligate finishing proved costly when Jackson’s handball conceded a penalty which pegged it back to 1–1.

Jackson made amends by hitting a long pass to Curl, who expertly rounded Belgian custodian Annie Noë and knocked in her third goal of the tournament to win the match for England.

There was more to come as a hastily-arranged bounce game against an understrength Italian team took place the day after the final. This was just up the coast in Monfalcone, near the border with what was then Yugoslavia.

Some sources describe the opposition as an Italian “B team”, but England’s 3–1 win was notable for Jo Broadhurst’s first Lionesses appearance and Hope Powell’s first international goal. It is also thought that Sue Buckett filled in for Terry Wiseman, marking an emotional farewell between the sticks for the Southampton legend.

It its coverage of the tournament, local broadsheet La Stampa said of the English squad:

“They train running barefoot on the beach, eat in joy, stuff themselves with sweets, seem to appreciate the good Italian wine: for them this “Mundialito” is almost a holiday.”

The same article cited “Patricia Curry” and “Andrienne Powel” as England’s best players – apparently garbled compounds of Hope Powell, Marieanne Spacey, Linda Curl (?) and Pat Chapman.

Andrienne Powel was described as a professional ballerina and coach Martin Reagan as a former Liverpool player.2 Either the hack responsible was the victim of a wind-up, or they were no stranger to appreciation of the good wine themselves!

Italy

Italy had hosted previous tournaments under the auspices of rebel women’s football governing body FIEFF, which had long since been stamped out by peevish rivals UEFA and FIFA.

Mundialito organisers tenuously claimed their lineage from the 1981 International Ladies Football Festival in Japan. Even more tenuously they claimed that Italy were defending a title won at the curious, unfinished Japanese tournament.

Inevitably, the wily Italians had a couple of trump cards up their sleeves. The first was Rose Reilly. A deadly cocktail of pace and power, Reilly was already box office dynamite in Italy’s Serie A. So much so that the Italians were trying to marry the charismatic Kiki Dee look-alike into Italian citizenry.

In November 1972, aged 17, she had starred in Scotland’s first ever international fixture, against England at a frost-bitten Ravenscraig Stadium in Greenock. In the first-half Reilly scored direct from a corner to put the Scots 2–0 ahead, only for the team to somehow snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in time-honoured Scottish style.

RoseReilly1984

Reilly gives her verdict to Italian TV

The Scots made a big play of getting Reilly back in the fold for the winner-take-all Euro qualifier with England at Dumbarton in October 1982. British Caledonian were lined up to jet her in, but her employers at Alaska Lecce (named for their ice cream company backers) had other ideas. Kerry Davis bagged four unanswered goals in England’s romp at the ramshackle Boghead Park ground.

Reilly gave the marriage offers a swerve, but did become an honorary Italian footballer: forming a formidable front three with Carolina Morace and Betty Vignotto.

The Italians’ second trump card was the home officials, who presided over what Cathy Gibb called: “refereeing at its worst”. They waved through three offside goals as Italy drubbed Belgium 4–0, recovering from their shock 2–1 opening day defeat by West Germany.

This set the tone for what was to follow. Some 32 years later at a Mundialito-type event in America, preposterously entitled the SheBelieves Cup, the refereeing was equally diabolical. Although this time it was female referees. And the public no longer had to take Gibb’s word for it, since live BBC television coverage beamed it into the nation’s living rooms.

In 1984 relations between the Italian Women’s FA (FIGCF) and the Italian [male] FA (FIGC) were strained. A telegramme from the Chinese FA inviting the women’s team to a Xi’an tournament in October had not been passed on. Seething, the FIGCF were left pondering whether apathy or spite had underpinned the snub.

The team did get to China but were handed a humiliating 3–2 semi-final defeat by Dallas Sting, a youth club who had been cleared by the USSF to play as the United States. Among the Sting players, mostly high school girls, was Carla Werden (Overbeck) who went on to become a “99er”, an Olympic gold medallist and a full-time professional with the Carolina Courage.

Notes:


1. Women’s Football Archive contacted the Belgian FA (KBVB) to tell them they had this score the wrong way about on their website. But to date they have not replied or fixed their error. Inevitably, the German FA’s “statistik center” is correct!

2. Reagan never played for Liverpool, England’s most successful male club. Although he did play against them three times, twice with Middlesbrough and once with Portsmouth.

Players: Debbie Bampton

Debbie Bampton: Highly-decorated midfield powerhouse

Born: 7 October 1961, Sidcup

Position: Midfielder

Debut: Netherlands (A) 30 September 1978

Occupation: Cashier (1981), Selector (1982), Courier (1987), Footballer (1988), Postwoman (2005)

Right… where to start with this one!? A Hall of Famer with an MBE for services to women’s football. Six Women’s FA Cup winner’s medals, the last two won as player-manager. Doubles. A treble. Ninety-five caps for England in a 19-year international career. A top-level club career spanning parts of four decades. Impressive numbers, which only scratch the surface on the story of this English football titan…

Part One: England


England manager Tommy Tranter handed 16-year-old schoolgirl Bampton her England debut on 30 September 1978 in a friendly with the Netherlands in Vlissingen.

Bampton’s overriding memory of the event was the inordinately tight shorts supplied to England’s players. They were wholly unsuitable attire for running about on a reclaimed island on the windswept North Sea coast.

As a mere slip of a lass the offending garments did not present Bampton with too many problems. But some of her more mature, fuller-figured team-mates apparently struggled.

In Daily Mail parlance, they had to “pour their curves” into the “sultry numbers”.

Unsurprisingly, England crashed to a comprehensive 3–1 defeat, Pat Chapman scoring the goal. Bampton came off the sub’s bench for 20 minutes and hated it.

It was the typical sort of amateurish nonsense which saw several leading players quit the game in 1978 and 1979, clearing the decks for the next generation.

Bampton went to the 1981 Portopia Tournament in Japan. She hit England’s final goal in the 4–0 win over the hosts in Kobe.

Sadly, the debut micro-shorts were not to be the last sartorial scandal encountered by Bampton during her Three Lionesses career.

Trooping off after another match in Italy, she went to swap shirts with an opponent – but England boss Martin Reagan wasn’t having any of it.

His steely touchline glare had Bampton wriggling back into her top quicker than you can say: “Ciao”!

Martin was a straight-laced guy. After all, he was a product of the FA administration which picked Ron Greenwood over “Ol’ Big ‘Ed” himself, Brian Clough.

But he wasn’t scandalised by this airing of early sports-bra technology. More likely he knew the potless Women’s Football Association (WFA) could ill afford a replacement shirt!

A broken leg which washed out Bampton’s spell in New Zealand (see below) also kept her out of England’s first ever UEFA qualifiers starting in 1982.

Battling back into contention, she played a key role in the Denmark semi-final. At Gresty Road, Crewe, England edged a nervy encounter 2–1.

The WFA credited Bampton with England’s second-half winner, although Danish FA records suggest Liz Deighan did the damage.

In any event, the second-leg in Hjørring was settled by Bampton’s towering header from Pat Chapman’s corner. The team celebrated winning through to the final with an impromptu human pyramid.

The final first-leg at Sweden’s Ullevi national stadium was backs to the wall stuff. England were fortunate to escape with a 1–0 defeat, but Bampton so nearly grabbed a priceless away goal.

Collecting possession from Linda Curl, she burst into the box but flicked a weak shot agonisingly wide of Elisabeth Leidinge’s post.

When the second-leg in Luton went to penalties, Bampton showed an iron nerve to convert England’s third kick. But Curl and Hanson put theirs too near Leidinge, who, ankle-deep in mud, failed to dive out of the way.

In August 1984 the Charity Shield between Everton and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium took place in front of 100,000 fans.

The WFA was invited to stage a short curtain-raiser and plumped for a six-a-side knockabout between Bampton’s Howbury Grange, Millwall Lionesses, St Helens and a Merseyside/Wirral Select.

Billed as the first time women had played football at Wembley Stadium, Linda Whitehead hailed a major “breakthrough”.

Amidst farcical scenes, Millwall were eventually declared winners because their goalkeeper (Sue Street) had the fewest touches!

That was on the Saturday and on the Monday Bampton was basking in Venetian Riviera sunshine, as England’s Mundialito campaign kicked-off against Belgium.

A hectic schedule of Euro finals, Wembley and then the ‘little World Cup’ in Italy: it seemed women’s football was at last reaching critical mass.

Bampton was back in Italy for the following year’s Mundialito, which England won. They handily beat upstarts the United States 3–1 along the way.

She dipped out of the starting line-up during the Euro 1987 qualifying campaign. Reagan perhaps allowing two creative ‘luxury players’ Hope Powell and Brenda Sempare free reign against the outmatched Irish and Scots.

But for the big games Bampton was always in there, usually alongside Gillian Coultard in a double pivot midfield. Both featured as England lost 3–2 to rivals Sweden in the Euro 87 semi-final, after extra-time.

Bampton’s toughness and famed aerial prowess meant she could also fill in at centre-half, like she did after the successful Angie Gallimore–Lorraine Hanson axis was broken up by the latter’s pregnancy in 1986.

Influential Bampton remained an England regular throughout the 1980s. When Carol Thomas (née McCune) retired in 1985, she was the natural choice to inherit the captaincy.

She clocked up her 50th cap in England’s 4–0 win at Love Street, Paisley on 6 May 1990 and was presented with a handsome silver plate.

An ill-timed injury during a period of upheaval saw Bampton lose the England captaincy. Barrie Williams – the WFA’s replacement for sacked Martin Reagan – handed Coultard the armband during his short time in the hotseat.

When the FA took over running the national team in 1993 Coultard was still captain, only to be publicly demoted by Ted Copeland on the eve of the 1995 World Cup.

Bampton was back as captain for the tournament in Sweden but the squad was riven with factions. There was no beef with Coultard, though, who remained Bampton’s room-mate.

The World Cup showed England were being left behind by other nations. This reached its nadir in May 1997 during back-to-back thrashings by the United States: 5–0 in San Jose then 6–0 in Portland.

Bampton, the sweeper in England’s ultra-defensive formation, toiled in the heat – and she wasn’t the only one.

Frequently moving as though wading through treacle, with a proverbial piano on her back, she was still among the better performers in England’s forlorn attempts at damage limitation.

Full-time athletes like Olympic superstar Mia Hamm were by then on a completely different planet to England’s enthusiastic but aging amateurs.

That was not the players’ fault of course. It was a result of chronic developmental failures, compounded over many years – as Bampton herself had long been saying.

Bampton’s 19-year, 95-cap England service came to an abrupt halt the following month.

She was unceremoniously bombed-out by Copeland, who had left it up to her whether she travelled to Norway for another meaningless friendly in June 1997.

Stressed by playing for and managing Croydon, she took Copeland up on his offer to sit the game out, but was never called upon again.

No thanks, no fanfare, no nothing!

Unimpressed Bampton later branded Copeland a decent coach but “too insensitive to work with women”.

Part Two: Club


Dad Albert and mum Ann played a key role in Bampton’s career and at many of her clubs. Sister Lorraine also dabbled in football, but not as seriously as Debbie.

A childhood judoka, Bampton recalled honing her football skills in time-honoured tradition: in the back garden with her dad.

Wendy Owen (2005) recalled Bampton as a highly-promising young team-mate at Maidstone. A crocked neck meant Owen’s own best days were well behind her by then.

But with Albert as manager, Debbie as captain and free-scoring Tracy Doe up front, Maidstone were soon a force to be reckoned with.

The Kent outfit reached the 1981 WFA Cup semi-final but were defeated by the holders, St Helens, at Maidstone United’s Athletic Ground.

Silverware-hungry Bampton switched to ambitious Lowestoft in 1981 and won the 1982 WFA Cup in her first season, playing in the final at Loftus Road.

She was chosen to play and coach in New Zealand with Auckland WFC from May to September 1982, alongside Audrey Rigby of Notts Rangers and Caroline Jones of Manor Athletic.

Rigby, a member of England’s 1976 Home Championships squad, thrived Down Under. She was their 1985 Player of the Year and won 14 caps as a NZ international.

Bampton endured a less enjoyable trip, consigned to the sidelines as a broken leg restricted her to coaching instead of playing.

Back in Blighty, Bampton captained Howbury Grange in the 1984 WFA Cup final at Sincil Bank, Lincoln. She collected her second winner’s medal as Doncaster Belles were seen off 4–2.

A black and white photo of two women footballers running after a ball

At some point in 1984–85 Bampton signed for Millwall Lionesses who were developing their pioneering link with the Millwall men’s club community department.

The Lionesses were beaten by Doncaster Belles in both the 1986 and 1987 WFA Cup semi-finals.

In 1987 Bampton was playing for Millwall and worked delivering mail for the Department of the Environment, when she left for Serie A club Trani.

She visited Trani’s Kerry Davis for a holiday and trained with the Italian giants, who promptly offered a two-year pro deal.

Like Denis Law and Jimmy Greaves a generation earlier, Bampton found performance-related pay taken to extremes in Italy.

That was okay for Davis, who had gone all-in. But for Bampton – trying to keep commitments ticking over at home – it proved unworkable.

She enjoyed the football: forming a formidable midfield duo with Viviana Bontacchio, having crossed swords with the tireless little Brescian while on England duty.

Trani lost the Cup final 2–1 to Modena and finished second in the league, twelve points behind Lazio. But Bampton had already decided to bail when Trani went bust on the eve of the 1988–89 campaign.

Back at Millwall Lionesses, Bampton was part of an ever-improving team. This culminated in claiming the 1991 WFA Cup at Prenton Park against Doncaster Belles.

When the WFA formed a National League in 1991, the Millwall team broke up and Bampton headed to London rivals Friends of Fulham, who were re-branding as Wimbledon.

The team started brightly, with a flurry of goals from Bampton’s England team-mate Marieanne Spacey, but never recovered from a 5–1 home thumping by Doncaster Belles in November 1991.

In 1992–93 Bampton played for newly-promoted Arsenal. As a self-confessed “Gooner” she was proud to collect a historic treble in her first season.

Vic Akers’s well-resourced Arsenal franchise made a mockery of the bookies’ questionable pre-season odds (12–1!) in the National League.

The 1993 WFA Cup final at Oxford’s Manor Ground saw Bampton inadvertently hospitalise her old friend and adversary, Doncaster Belles’ Gillian Coultard, after a first-half collision.

That coincided with Arsenal scoring twice in first-half stoppage time, in their eventual 3–0 win. Bampton pocketed her fourth winner’s gong from her fourth final.

A trophyless 1993–94 season with Arsenal preceded a move into player-management with Croydon, the club formed as Bromley Borough in 1991 by a few of Bampton’s old Millwall Lionesses pals.

In 1995–96 the team overcame a monster end of season fixture pile-up to beat the Belles to the title on goal difference. Despite being out on their feet, they also beat Liverpool on penalties in the Cup final at The Den.

Pete Davies’s I Lost my Heart to the Belles (1996) – unashamedly a lovelorn paean to Doncaster Belles – portrayed Bampton in the role of cartoon villain.

That was poetic licence by Davies. But Bampton’s brand of straight-talking did not endear her to everyone.

It possibly went against her when the FA appointed under-qualified Hope Powell, her Croydon skipper, over her head as England manager in 1998.

Forthright Bampton was never one to shirk a confrontation. Especially about complacency, for which she reserved a special loathing.

Steeped in football, Bampton’s intimate knowledge of the game meant she could wring the best out of her charges.

She balanced a relatively small squad and valued the – ahem – footballer’s footballers who played alongside gifted artisans like Hope Powell and Jo Broadhurst.

As well as dad Albert, ex-Millwall Lionneses boss Alan May was involved with the coaching. Broadhurst’s dad Brian also helped out but Bampton retained overall control, even while playing.

Tactical team talks were given via the medium of Subbuteo, much to the players’ hilarity.

This all fostered amazing team spirit at Croydon, who went unbeaten in the league for two years. Although they did develop an irksome habit of losing Cup finals to Arsenal.

Croydon recaptured the League title in 1998–99 and the squad cheekily went along to the Cup final, to cheer on Arsenal’s opponents Southampton Saints.

Arsenal gaffer Vic Akers was left seething after finding a boozy a capella rendition of “Where’s Yer Treble Gone?” on his answerphone messages. The culprit was never found, although Bampton naturally fell under suspicion!

Another double was secured in 2000 when Doncaster Belles were controversially edged out 2–1 in the Cup final at Bramall Lane in Sheffield.

When Croydon were franchised to Charlton Athletic in summer 2000, Bampton sensationally quit.

By all previous indications, Bampton was not averse to a tie-up with a bigger men’s club, which had been on the cards for a while.

But something about the way it was handled did not sit right. Bampton had her principles and voted with her feet. Even with vastly improved resources, the club never enjoyed success on the same scale.

Postponing retirement yet again, Bampton’s next destination as a player raised eyebrows: Doncaster Belles.

Not only is Doncaster 200 miles north of Croydon, but Bampton’s club career was hitherto defined by numerous ding-dong battles against the Belles, over some 20 years.

On the opening day of the 2000–01 season, Donny faced Premier League new girls Barry Town in Wales. A goal down after 79 minutes, they roared back to win 3–1 with 38-year-old Bampton notching the second.

On her induction to the National Football Museum Hall of Fame in 2005, Bampton could proudly say: “By the time I finished I had achieved everything I wanted in the game”.

Bampton played on for a few years with Eastbourne Borough in the lower divisions, under – who else? – dad Albert. She also held brief coaching assignments at Whitehawk and Lewes.

Players: Sue Law

Sue Law: Gutsy England defender who carried the fight off the pitch

SueLaw1992

Born: 25 April 1966, Rochford

Position: Defender

Debut: Wales (N) 17 August 1985

Occupation: Sport Development Officer (1989), FA Head of Equality (2015)

Defender Sue Law played around 40 times for England and represented Pelynt, Brighton, Millwall Lionesses and Bromley Borough with calm assurance. But she is perhaps best known as that rare thing: a brainy footballer! The old stereotype says any player with two ‘O’ Levels must be nicknamed “the professor”. But Law is in a different league altogether. After injuries took their toll she hung up her boots but vowed to move women’s football forward from the inside.

Club


Essex-born Suzanne Law knew she wanted to play football for England when she was seven years old. As a pupil at Plymouth High School she sought out 5-a-side footie with Prince Rock LFC and soon graduated to the 11-a-side ranks with Pelynt LFC.

While taking a degree in Sports Science from Brighton Polytechnic, bright spark Law played for Brighton (then known as C&C Sports due to a sponsorship deal).

In 1987 she joined Millwall Lionesses. The London outfit were fiercely ambitious after losing two consecutive WFA Cup semi-finals to Doncaster Belles.

Millwall were in the market for decent players, after half a dozen regulars quit for the Italian Serie A over the preceding year or so.

It cost Law £20 a week to go back and forth from her Peacehaven base to train and play with the Lionesses. But she loved the set-up in South London, declaring:

“I needed the best possible training and play to secure my England place. No one else in women’s football had developed a whole structure of coaches, and youth and reserve sides, let alone things like the physiotherapy we get from Millwall’s physio. Millwall have done the work for women’s football that the FA should have done in this country.”

In 1991 Law was part of the great Millwall Lionesses team who finally wrested the WFA Cup away from Doncaster Belles, after a titanic tussle at Prenton Park, Birkenhead.

That season Law proudly served as team skipper, since club captain Raeltine Shrieves could not always crack an increasingly competitive first XI.

In the aftermath of that success the team broke up. Along with Hope Powell and coach Alan May, Law was part of the faction which set up Bromley Borough, the team which later became Croydon, then Charlton Athletic.

As a new club Bromley Borough started out at the very bottom: in the muck and nettles of the South East Counties League.

This meant lopsided scorelines, which became even more pronounced when silky England midfielder Brenda Sempare joined Bromley for their second season.

Law hung up her boots after a 1992–93 WFA Cup semi-final defeat by treble-winning Arsenal at Cambridge. Bromley gave a good account of themselves but succumbed to second-half goals from Arsenal’s Debbie Bampton and Naz Ball.

England


Martin Reagan handed 19-year-old Law her England debut in August 1985, in a 6–0 win over Wales staged on the Isle of Man.

As a promising right-back she had big boots to fill: ultra consistent Hullensian Carol Thomas had performed the role with distinction for over a decade.

In the Euro 1987 semi against Sweden, Law’s quick free-kick set up Kerry Davis to put England 2–1 up, but the Swedes hit back to win 3–2 in extra time.

Law’s finest hour as an England player came in the 1988 Mundialito (little World Cup) win. The “Lioness of Arco” Linda Curl bagged both England’s goals in a brave final win over hosts Italy.

Law shrugged off an injured ankle to repeatedly shut the door in the Italians’ faces.

Sue Mott of The Times quoted Law after the match: “We all had cramp, our muscles were knotting and still the referee played on and on in the hope that Italy would equalise. It was incredible.”

“We’re treated wonderfully abroad,” said Law. “Funnily enough, it’s just at home we’re snarled at and laughed at.”

Law sat out England’s historic 2–0 defeat by Sweden at Wembley in May 1989, still recovering from a shoulder operation. She graced the hallowed turf a year later, as England stuffed Scotland 4–0 in a short “demonstration” before the Man United v Crystal Palace FA Cup final.

In November 1990, Law was absent from the squad who lost heavily to ruthless Germany and missed out on a place in the inaugural 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

After that disappointment Martin Reagan was sacked and replaced with eccentric former schoolmaster Barrie Williams. The new boss reckoned his charges were incapable of playing a flat back four so switched to five at the back.

That suited Law who had played as a centre-half for Millwall. Although she was now plying her trade in the basement divisions with Bromley Borough, she retained her England place for the Euro 93 campaign.

Barrie Williams quit after six months as the WFA went into meltdown. He was replaced by his goalkeeper coach John Bilton.

Sue Lopez’s Women on the Ball (1997) detailed the “ignominious end” to Law’s international career, which came in the second leg of the Euro 93 quarter-final with Italy at Rotherham United’s old Millmoor ground:

“Law played bravely, despite agonising back pain, probably not helped by a vigorous pre-match fitness test with shoulder charges from the solid six-footer John Bilton.”

It was the last ever England game under the WFA. Law scored an own goal and Lou Waller was red carded for deliberate handball in a 3–0 defeat. Italian star Carolina Morace picked off England who were forced to chase a 3–2 deficit from the first leg.

Despite her battles with injury, loyal servant Law made around 35 to 40 appearances for England, depending on whether matches like the shortened curtain-raisers are included.

Post playing career


Persistent injuries forced Law’s premature retirement from playing before she was 30. But she had already made her mark off the field as a proselytiser.

In the November 1986 edition of the WFA News, Law was already seeking out alliances and asking questions years – if not decades – ahead of their time:

“We would like to know why women’s football is not taken seriously? Why we don’t receive media coverage we feel we deserve?”

In April 1987 Law and England team mates Terry Wiseman and Marieanne Spacey were among candidates for the FA’s Preliminary Coaching Badge. The intensive residential course at Lilleshall was not for the faint-hearted but Law passed with flying colours.

When Channel 4 started showing women’s football in 1988–89, producers Trans World International picked cerebral and well-spoken Law as their expert summariser.

Before long Law’s work in her day job with the National Coaching Federation (latterly Sports Coach UK) was subject to admiring glances.

In 2000 she was headhunted by the FA as its child protection tsar. During the 90s the FA had been in an embarrassing fankle after its clumsy attempts at child protection excluded legions of young players.

Pettifogging FA rules blocked kids from adult football. But because there were precious few girls’ teams and girls remained banned from school football, there was nowhere for them to go. It led to a massive talent drain.

After sorting out that mess, high flyer Law was then promoted to overall “head of equality” in 2006.

Portopia ’81 – England women tour Japan

Caught in time: the England women’s football team jet off to Japan in September 1981

Japan1981bsmall

In autumn 1981 coach Martin Reagan‘s charges made history by becoming the first England national team ever to visit the Land of the Rising Sun.

According to the Japanese FA, the Portpier 81 International Ladies Football Festival tournament was tied in with Portopia ’81, a massive trade fair or “Expo” to mark the completion of Port Island. This was a man-made island built off the coast of Kobe between 1966 and 1981 at a cost of several billion yen. Another island was completed in 1992, only for Kobe to be rocked by a devastating earthquake in 1995.

Matches were played as double-headers, 40 minutes each way. The second round of fixtures was played 300 miles north east of Kobe, in Japan’s capital city Tokyo. The Danish FA (DBU) report attendances of 5,000 in Kobe and 3,000 in Tokyo. England v Italy and Denmark v Japan fixtures do not seem to have been played: perhaps a discreet veil was drawn over them after the hosts’ 9–0 hammering by Italy!

The Italians classed the tournament as an edition of their Mundialito series. And they had no compunction about declaring themselves the winners despite drawing with Denmark and not playing England.

Results:

Date Venue Team 1 Score Team 2 Scorers
6 September 15:30 Kobe Central Stadium, Kobe Denmark 1–1 Italy Inger Pedersen (32), Betty Vignotto (65)
6 September 17:30 Kobe Central Stadium, Kobe Japan 0–4 England Angie Gallimore (45, 48), Vicky Johnson (71), Debbie Bampton (75)
Date Venue Team 1 Score Team 2 Scorers
9 September 17:30 Tokio Nishigaoka Stadium, Tokyo Japan 0–9 Italy Carolina Morace, Sandra Pierazzuoli (2), Betty Saldi (2), Betty Secci, Betty Vignotto (2)
9 September 19:30 Tokio Nishigaoka Stadium, Tokyo England 0–1 Denmark Inger Pedersen (49)

Team notes:

England

Excitement and joy was etched on the players’ faces as they lined up for the photocall before setting off from Heathrow. It was to be the first time England had faced opposition from outside Europe.

Nottingham Forest’s Brian Clough had enraged the Japanese in February 1981 by contrasting their hi-tech “television wristwatches” with their failure to “grow some bloody grass”.

Forest lost the Intercontinental Cup 1–0 to Uruguayans Club Nacional on a bumpy, sandy mess at Tokyo’s national stadium.

Ever the diplomat, manager Martin Reagan was more measured: “Quite obviously, the lack of grass pitches will cause great problems in developing their game and will certainly influence their style and tactics.”

In England’s first match, hosts Japan bravely held out until half time only for Angie Gallimore to score twice in the opening 10 minutes of the second period. Johnson and Bampton added late goals as Japan eventually succumbed 4–0.

The players and staff reportedly bopped the night away until 1am in a local disco before jetting on to Tokyo.

The next matchday saw England edged out 1–0 by Denmark. Inger Pedersen, who also got the Danes’ goal in their opening 1–1 draw with Italy, scored a late goal off an assist from the excellent Lone Smidt Hansen (later Lone Smidt Nielsen).

After jetting back to England, WFA chairman David Hunt described the tour as “satisfactory” and expressed pride that in visiting such exotic climes the women had achieved something that England’s pampered male players had yet to do.

Japan1981small

England line–ups:

Vs Japan (4–3–3): Wiseman (Irvine); Thomas (Johnson), Gallimore, Parker, Coffin (Reynolds); Curl (Coultard), Bampton, Deighan; Doe, Foreman (Hutchinson), Turner

Vs Denmark (4–3–3): Wiseman; Thomas, Gallimore, Parker, Coffin; Curl (Coultard), Bampton, Deighan; Foreman (Hutchinson), Doe, Turner

Number Name Position Age (approx.) Club
1 Terry Irvine Goalkeeper 29 Aylesbury
2 Angie Gallimore Defender 17 Broadoak
3 Gillian Coultard Midfielder 18 Doncaster Belles
4 Vicky Johnson Defender 21 Lowestoft
5 Janet Turner Forward 20 St Helens
6 Linda Curl Midfielder 20 Lowestoft
7 Eileen Foreman Forward 27 Warminster
8 Tracy Doe Forward 21 Maidstone
9 Liz Deighan Midfielder 26 St Helens
10 Carol Thomas (née McCune) Defender (captain) 26 C.P. Doncaster
11 Linda Coffin Defender 26 Southampton
12 Christine Hutchinson Midfielder 28 Percy Main
13 Sheila Parker (née Porter) Defender 34 Preston North End
14 Maureen Reynolds Defender 28 Biggleswade
15 Debbie Bampton Midfielder 20 Lowestoft
16 Terry Wiseman Goalkeeper 25 Maidstone

Japan

In 1981 Japanese women’s football was in its infancy. The first edition of the national club Championship, the Empress’s Cup, had been played over two days in March 1980 at Mitsubishi Yowa Soccer Club in Sugamo, Tokyo. Eight teams played 25 minutes each way, eight-a-side with a size four ball on a specially marked out 76m X 54m (i.e. 3:4 size) pitch.

The winning team, FC Jinnan, had previously represented Japan in the 1977 Asian Championships; Japan’s first tentative foray into the international arena. They finished bottom of their group after losing 1–0 to Indonesia then being demolished 7–0 by hosts Taiwan.

A proper Japan team was put together for the Asian Championships in June 1981, going out after three first round matches. It cost the players 30,000 yen each for the privilege of going to Hong Kong. Etsuko Handa, who had just turned 16, got the team’s first ever goal in a 1–0 win over Indonesia.

In only their fifth ever match here they found themselves confronted with Carolina Morace and Betty Vignotto—two of the world’s greatest ever strikers—and found themselves a bit out of their depth.

The team will not have enjoyed taking such a pasting in front of their own fans, as the concept of “honour” was still big in Japanese culture. Historically, women even had their own version of Hari-Kari: known as Jigaki, which was ritual disembowelment but with one’s knees primly tied together — thereby avoiding any undignified splayed legs.

Some players stuck at it though, the pioneering Handa played at the Atlanta Olympics 15 years later.

In 1981 the status of Asian women’s football was in a stand off, as detailed in an interesting chapter in Jean Williams’ A Beautiful Game (2007).

The independent Asian Ladies Football Confederation (ALFC) were trying to affiliate to FIFA in their own right, while FIFA were telling them to fall into line under the (male) Asian Football Confederation. The male confederation, guided by one or two influential Muslim bigots in places like Malaysia, wanted nothing to do with women’s football.

In the mid 1980s the AFC accepted women’s football and the Japanese FA appointed a properly qualified coach, Ryohei Suzuki, to run the team in 1986. The 1981 team had been coached by a well-meaning schoolteacher.

Eventually in the 1990s FIFA stopped trying to suppress women’s football and decided to run “official” national team competitions.

Disgustingly corrupt FIFA kingpin João Havelange used his shamed ISL marketing company to run the events and channel sizeable kickbacks into his own bank account.

Japan eventually rose to the top of the tree, winning the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a dainty brand of tiki-taka which did justice to their “Nadeshiko” nickname.

Notes:

The info for this article came from Sue Lopez’s indispensible Women on the Ball (1997), Jean Williams’s A Beautiful Game (2007) and the WFA’s match programme for England v Norway 25 October 1981. Luckily the Japanese, Danish and Italian FAs all keep better records than their English counterparts.

On the second matchday Associated Press (AP) issued a three-line press release: “SOCCER TOKYO (AP) – Italy beat Japan 9-0 and Denmark edged England 1-0 in a women’s tournament. Elisabetta Saldi, Sandra Pierazzuoli and Elisabetta Vignotto scored two goals each for Italy. In the second game, Denmark’s Inger Pedersen shot in the winning goal at the 65th minute, assisted by Smidt Hansen.”

Update: Article amended with further info supplied by the estimable Soccer History Magazine (see comments).

Players: Linda Curl

Linda Curl

Smiling woman with brown shoulder-length hair in a white t-shirt with blue and red stripes

Born: c.1962, Norwich

Position: Striker

Debut: Switzerland (H) 28 April 1977

Occupation: Policewoman (1988)

The Lioness of Arco: a long-serving striking legend with an insatiable appetite for goals.

Norwich police officer who was a player for the big occasion—with the medals to prove it—and a loyal servant to the English cause.

Tommy Tranter gave youthful Curl her England debut on 28 April 1977 in a 9–1 win over Switzerland at Boothferry Park, Hull.1

Her next England appearance was much less auspicious, a 2–1 defeat to the Scots at Downfield Juniors FC ground, near Dundee, on 29 May. It would be the Auld Enemy’s first ever win over England, and their last for 34 years, until the 2011 Cyprus Cup.

On 18 September Curl was involved as England returned to winning ways by hammering Wales 5–0 in Warminster, all the goals coming in the second half.

She collected a fourth cap in the 1–0 win over Italy at Plough Lane, Wimbledon on 15 November 1977. Lowestoft Ladies starlet Curl started the match in a midfield role wearing number 6. Sheila Parker, wearing number 10, struck the winner.

On 28 October 1978, Curl added to Elaine “Baddy” Badrock’s double as England beat Belgium 3–0. Played at Southampton FC’s The Dell, it was England’s first match at a top level ground.

Lowestoft Ladies, the team from the easternmost town in the UK, reached the 1979 Women’s FA Cup final. But Curl’s team were edged out 1–0 by Southampton, the dominant team of the era, at Jubilee Park, Waterlooville.

England went to an unofficial European Championship in July 1979 and dispatched Finland and Switzerland in Sorrento during group play. That gave them a crack at hosts Italy in the semi-final staged at the San Paulo, Naples. Curl equalised Betty Vignotto’s first half opener, but England wilted in the heat and lost 3–1.

In September 1981 Curl was part of the England party who toured Japan for the Portopia ’81 tournament. She finished 1981–82 with a WFA Cup winners’ medal, Curl and Angie Poppy scoring in Lowestoft’s 2–0 final win over Cleveland Spartans at Loftus Road. It was the first time the final was held on a Football League ground.

Lowestoft disbanded in the aftermath of that success and Curl joined up with Norwich Ladies, “The Fledgelings” who had been formed by Maureen Reynolds in April 1982.

In 1983 Curl ran in 22 goals in Norwich’s farcical 40–0 Chiltern League demolition of Milton Keynes Reserves. Representing a record of sorts,2 it made English women’s football look stupid, exposing a serious dearth of structure and quality outside the top teams. Boffins Williams and Woodhouse (1991) branded it “damaging and embarrassing” and asked “who could take women’s football seriously?”

As a world-class striker Curl deserved a better stage for her talents. In those days the best players gravitated to Italy’s semi-pro league but Curl’s cop career seems to have kept her at home.

After 1979, it took dozy UEFA chiefs five more years to finally organise a proper Euro Cup. The regionalised qualifying tournament gave England a free pass to the finals, with substandard Scottish and Irish opposition swatted aside. Livewire youngster Kerry Davis burst on the scene and formed an effective front two with Curl.

Although England did not have it all their own way: Kerry Davis got them out of a tight spot in Dublin, scoring the only goal against ‘the fighting Irish’.

In the first leg of the semi, versus Denmark at Gresty Road in Crewe, Curl put England ahead four minutes before half time. Danish great Inge Hindkjær hit back in the second half but Liz Deighan gave England a priceless 2–1 lead to take to Denmark.3 Three weeks later in Hjørring, Debbie Bampton’s thumping header settled the tie.

The Euro 84 final saw England battered by Sweden in the first leg, but escape Ullevi stadium with a 1–0 defeat thanks to doughty defending and the heroics of goalkeeper Terry Wiseman.

Curl levelled the tie by scoring in the second leg at a boggy Kenilworth Road in Luton. She had England’s first kick in the resultant penalty shootout saved and had to watch Pia Sundhage slot past Wiseman to give the Swedes the trophy.

1984 teammate Hope Powell recalled in a May 2009 interview with The Guardian‘s Tony Leighton that Curl “went ballistic in the showers” to puncture the post match gloom and get the other players smiling again.

Norwich Ladies won the 1986 WFA Cup, beating Doncaster Belles in a 4–3 thriller at Carrow Road. Team captain Curl scored her customary goal but must have been injured shortly afterwards because she returned in 1986–87 to Norwich after a “very bad knee operation” (club secretary Eve Bedson in WFA News Jan 87). In characteristic fashion Curl plundered 13 goals in her first game back.

In June 1987 Curl’s England were back at the Euros in Norway, after rattling in 34 goals in six qualifying matches against more feeble Scottish and Irish opposition.

She started the semi–final at Melløs Stadion, Moss, versus Sweden in the number 11 shirt. Some sources suggest Curl scored,4 but England lost 3–2 after extra time, following a two-goal salvo from Gunilla Axén. A pitiful 300 fans were in attendance.

July 1988’s Mundialito (“little World Cup”) tournament in Trento, Italy, was Curl’s finest hour. She was the competition’s top scorer with four goals. The Times reporter Sue Mott wrote that England’s “leading striker” was away attending a family wedding,5 so a teenaged Karen Walker was drafted in and given a debut.

At the final in Arco, the “suspiciously awful” (according to Sue Mott) Italian referee Antonio Cafiero was an unrepentant homer. Curl put England ahead with ten minutes to go, but Cafiero played on and on while a gutsy and patched up England were knackered. Inevitably, home favourite Carolina Morace scored right at the death to force extra time. The irrepressible Curl popped up with another goal two minutes before penalties and England’s walking wounded bravely held out against the wily and sinewy Italians.

The team had paid their own way there, and at Luton Airport on the way back jubilant WFA secretary Linda Whitehead allowed herself a gentle dig at the FA: “At least when we go abroad,” she said, “we don’t come back empty-handed.” Despite massive resources England’s male team had flopped yet again at their Euro 88.

Curl’s feat won England the prestigious Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Award for Team of the Year.

That was the high watermark for England, whose next match was a chastening 2–0 defeat in Klepp, Norway. UEFA had scrapped the home nations qualifiers for Euro 89 and England finished a distant third behind Norway and the Danes.

At club level Curl moved on to Ipswich Town in summer 1988, from Town & County, whom she had previously joined from Norwich Ladies. It is not clear if she was still with Ipswich when the first National League was formed in 1991–92.

In May 1989 Curl graced Wembley’s hallowed turf as a substitute in England’s first full international there. Goals from the outstanding Pia Sundhage and Lena Videkull sent the Lionesses to a 2–0 defeat to Sweden, before the men’s Rous Cup game with Chile.

Curl’s England swansong came in a 4–0 win over Scotland at Love Street, Paisley on 6 May 1990. It was reported as her 60th cap. She hit England’s first goal on three minutes, a close range finish off a cleverly worked short corner routine. She retired as England’s record cap holder.


1. Curl was reported to be 16, but birth records indicate a Linda J Curl registered in Norwich in 1962. If this is correct she must have been even younger.

2. It made The Guinness Book of Records. The 1991 edition said the match took place on 25 September 1983 and also listed Curl as England’s record cap holder with 59.

3. The Danish FA credit England’s second goal to Liz Deighan, Cathy Gibb’s WFA News report credits Debbie Bampton.

4. Swedish FA records credit England’s goals to Davis and Curl, but the UEFA programme for Euro 1997 listed Davis and Jacqueline Sherrad (sic) as the scorers.

5. This must refer to either Kerry Davis or Marieanne Spacey?