The Forgotten World Cup
For three weeks in the summer of 1971, an unsanctioned women's World Cup in Mexico took the world by storm. Then it all fell apart.
14 months after Pele's Brazil beat Italy in the final of the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico City, Susanne "Susy" Augustesen scored a hat-trick for Denmark at the same venue in another World Cup final that is all but forgotten.
Augustesen, who was just 15 years old at the time and needed her parents’ permission to compete, was one of the breakout talents from the six teams competing at the 1971 Campeonato de Futbol Femenil—the second unsanctioned women’s World Cup. The Danish teenager went on to lead her country to a 3-0 victory against Mexico in the final, defending the title they claimed at the previous year’s World Cup in Italy. More than 100,000 people filled Mexico City’s iconic Estadio Azteca to watch the final—an unprecedented achievement in women’s football at the time.
While Augustesen went on to have a successful club career in Italy, scoring more than 600 goals for clubs like Lazio and winning the Italian championship eight times during her tenure, her name is lost in the annals of football history. Even in Denmark, her legacy is forgotten, as is that of the country’s dominance at the 1970-71 World Cups.
“One simply forgets one’s own history,” Augustesen said in a recent interview.
Augustesen isn’t the only player whose extraordinary legacy has been ignored. Long before FIFA (reluctantly) decided to get into the women’s game, football’s world governing body actively ignored women and questioned the market for organized women’s football. It took 61 years after FIFA established the first men’s World Cup for the organization to establish a women’s version in 1991. Even then, women’s football was not treated with the same respect as men’s football. During the inaugural World Cup, matches were 10 minutes shorter than the men, prompting U.S. captain April Heinrichs to to question whether organizers “were afraid our ovaries were going to fall out if we played 90”. There tournament didn’t even have prize money until 2007, when the total prize fund was a measly $5.8 million.
Even as FIFA celebrates the success of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which shattered attendance and viewership records, the organization continues to ignore the history of the women’s game, including the extraordinary, albeit short-lived, World Cups in the 70s.
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