England crush German rivals at 1970 Women’s World Cup in Italy
Remember when England whupped Germany 5–1? No, not that time. Y’know… 1970… at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa? Before Stevie G, Michael O and, er, Emile H were even born. No? Then read on…
UPDATE: See below for an important November 2016 update to this article.
The Women’s Football Association gingerly began life as the ‘Ladies’ Football Association of Great Britain’ in 1969.
For a few years they remained so bogged down in ludicrous ‘steering groups’ and ‘joint-consultative sub-committees’ that nothing actually got done in terms of putting a national team out.
Meanwhile, hard-headed realist Harry Batt got on and made things happen. Like all the best drivers of early women’s football he acted without waiting for permission.
Batt was the manager of Chiltern Valley Ladies, where his formidable wife June had played, and had taken it upon himself to put together an England national team.
Meanwhile an independent world women’s football governing body, FIEFF, had been formed as the brainchild of a group of Italian businessmen. Among them was Marco Rambaudi, furniture magnate and owner of the Real Torino women’s football club.
Martini & Rossi, purveyors of sickly fortified wines – popular in the pre-alcopop 70s – were the group’s main sponsors.
A Coppa Europa involving Batt’s England had proved to be a money-spinner for FIEFF in 1969. Thumbing their nose at FIFA, the Italian impresarios put together an even more ambitious eight-team Coppa del Mondo in 1970.
Another invitation winged its way to Batt, while teams from Mexico, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark and West Germany were also rounded up. Czechoslovakia pulled out at late notice when they were refused visas.
Plans to invite Brazil were scuppered when it turned out women’s football there was not only banned – as it was in most places – but actually illegal.
Martini ponied up for a massive ornate trophy, to be collected by the tournament winners.
England’s star players Sue Lopez and Dot Cassell ultimately earned moves to full-time football in Italy off the back of their performances for Batt’s team.
Here the Italian press reported that Lopez had a distant relative in the Mexican squad, due to the great-granddad who had bequeathed her Iberian moniker.
Sue’s copious memoirs rather skirt over this 1970 tournament. It was apparently a bit naughty of her to take part: she was, after all, the nascent WFA’s assistant secretary.
Batt was said to be sweating on Cassell and Lopez turning up – they made their own way to Italy after starring for Southampton in the Deal International Tournament.
Sue Buckett, the great Southampton goalkeeper who became a fixture in the WFA’s England team, was in the team lists published by La Stampa on the morning of the match, with Everitt on the bench. But in the following day’s match report it was Everitt between the sticks with Buckett nowhere to be seen.
There were a few other interesting names in Batt’s line-up, which might suggest his team was stronger and more representative than it has often been given credit for.
Briggs and Seymour jump out: Joan Briggs and Jean Seymour were veterans of the big Northern works teams who dominated England’s domestic scene in the pre-WFA era.
Seymour had moved down to play for Southampton, while Briggs turned out for Leicester side EMGALS and was one of the last players to be cut from Eric Worthington’s 1972 England team. Briggs later became a Tory (Boo! Hiss!) Councillor in the East Midlands.
Denmark proved too strong in England’s next match, winning 2–0 at a canter in Milan.
Neither Cassell or Lopez were in the England team which lost the third place play-off 3–2 to Mexico in Turin. Batt’s girls never recovered from a sensational early goal by Alicia Vargas, perhaps the Marta of her day.
The Germans did not set up an official women’s team until 1982. So the invite for this tournament was taken up by Heinz Schweden, coach of club team SC Bad Neuenahr.
The Rhine Valley outfit made headlines in 2000 when they signed former Southampton Saints and Reading frontwoman Sarah Stainer, making her the first English player in the Frauen-Bundesliga.
Like Batt’s England, the Germans bolstered their ranks with guest players. Captain Margaretha Holl joined from Bellenberg. Sieglinde Schmied and Anneliese Probst came in from Ludwigsfeld and Gannertshofen, respectively.
The Bad Neuenahr team had a youthful spine: Maria Nelles (later Breuer) was the 17-year-old goalkeeper and Elisabeth “Fritzi” Schuhmacher the midfield hub. Prolific 15-year-old Martina Arzdorf (later Hertel) was charged with leading the line and getting the goals.
England and West Germany both trained at Genoa’s impressive stadium on the day before the match, with Batt and Schweden soon at loggerheads over alleged spying!
The spat foreshadowed the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup – where the Chinese hosts subjected their opponents to creepy surveillance, involving bugged dressing rooms and two-way mirrors.
In its quaintly shambolic way, the bickering proved that the stakes were high. Batt and Schweden were contrary characters. They needed to be, too: by running their “unofficial” national teams they constantly shrugged off threats of dire consequences from football’s powers-that-be.
A crowd of around 3,000 were in place for the half nine kick-off, after which England quickly seized control of the match.
Briggs blasted an early two-goal salvo, inside the first minute and then on nine minutes. Stockley knocked in a penalty on 25 minutes, awarded by fussy Italian ref Loffi. Cross’s goal on the half hour mark gave England a commanding 4–0 half-time lead.
Germany’s Schmied reduced the arrears with an eye-catching solo goal on 49 minutes, before – who else? – Sue Lopez lashed in a fifth to make the game safe on 61 minutes.
The match made a small ripple in the West German press. Abendzeitung sports hack Veit Mölder, piqued at the Germans’ thrashing, instead focused on the players’ looks.
Scoffing at the Brits’ “tree-truck calves”, Mölder seedily branded the German teens “die schönere Elf” (the beautiful eleven). Well, it was the 70s!
Meanwhile the sweaty-palmed, dirty raincoat-wearing snappers trained their long lenses on German number 4 Helga Waluga. The same treatment was meted out to England’s own blond bombshell Jeannie Allott a couple of years later.
It would be 45 long years before Fara Williams’ trusty right boot gave England victory over Germany again, at the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
Italian preparations for the tournament were marred by internal politics and internecine strife.
The team was selected by FICF, who were based in Viareggio and then Turin. A rival Rome-based association, FFIGC, banned its players from taking part.
FFIGC league champions Gommagomma noisily bragged that they would thrash the FICF national team. The Milan outfit may well have done too – their 16-year-old striker was the legendary Betty Vignotto.
The Italians still put out a strong team, containing captain and golden girl Elena Schiavo and excellent goalkeeper Wilma Seghetti. As holders of FIEFF’s 1969 Coppa Europa, they were looking to underline their dominance in their own backyard.
Notorious slow starters, the Italians edged out the Swiss 2–1 in Salerno. Then Schiavo booked their place in the final, grabbing a double to see off highly-fancied Mexico in Naples.
Top club team Femina BK were invited to represent Denmark, as they had in the previous year’s Coppa Europa. They wanted to go one better having finished runners-up to their Italian hosts on that occasion.
The Femina ranks boasted a couple of talented Czechs in the shape of Jana Mandikova and Maria Sevcikova, a legacy of the club’s 1968 tour behind the old iron curtain. Sevcikova was already in the sights of Italian clubs and had been on trial at Real Torino alongside Sue Lopez.
Things got off to a rocky start when the hamper containing Femina’s iconic white kits failed to materialise. Suspicion fell on the Russian travel agents. Undeterred, the Danes sourced a job lot of AC Milan replica kits at a local sports shop and wore those instead.
Femina opened their campaign with a 6–1 win over West Germany, who were tired out by their England defeat and an exhausting train journey from Genoa to Bologna.
Two goals from Evers disposed of England in the semi-final in Milan – setting up a mouthwatering final rematch with Italy in Turin.
The match was staged at Turin’s Stadio Communale (now the Stadio Olimpico after it was refurb’ed for the 2006 Winter Olympics).
Ex-Juventus custodian Giovanni Viola was in evidence, later making measured and sensible comment about the quality of football on show.
24,000 ticket sales went through the books, but the actual number inside the ground was reckoned at more than 40,000. Marco Rambaudi and pals made a killing but rubbed FIFA up the wrong way.
The crooks at the world governing body felt quite strongly, then as now, that their own noses should always be first in the trough on such occasions.
After an even bigger, better FIEFF World Cup in Mexico the following year, FIFA redoubled their efforts. High-level interference blocked a tournament in fascist Spain after which FIEFF fizzled out.
On the pitch, Denmark duly took revenge on Italy with goals in either half from Hansen and their irrepressible Czech Sevcikova.
Femina returned home in triumph having scooped the world title. But there was something rotten in the state of Denmark: their civic reception turned into a damp squib when the team caught an earlier train and missed the festivities.
The club inked a big sponsorship deal with the FAXE brewery off the back of their “World Champions” tag. But the peevish Danish FA (DBU) did everything in their power to stamp Femina out altogether over the following couple of years.
An article in the Southern Evening Echo makes it clear that Sue Lopez and the Southampton players pulled out of the squad on the eve of the tournament and DID NOT take part, after all.
Quotes from Lopez indicate a mooted transport strike on the continent dissuaded the Southampton players from setting off at 8am the day after their Deal heroics. They were also wary about being seen to undermine the WFA.
The 2–0 semi-final defeat by Denmark in Milan was followed by unsavoury scenes, as players fled in terror from exuberant Italian fans invading the pitch. Batt insisted, not entirely convincingly: “The crowd did invade the pitch but they did not touch my girls. I can surely deny this. They may have been jostled a bit but nothing more.”
It seems Seymour in the England team was not Jean (née Gollin), the Mancunian veteran of Corinthians and Dick, Kerr’s Ladies, but Janice Seymour – a team-mate of Louise Cross of Patstone United.
Thanks to Neil Morrison of The Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation for additional info.