15 Jun 2024

Copa 71 - Their Moment

Join the Most Fascinating Story You've Never Heard: The First Women's World Cup, Contested by FIFA, Held in Mexico in 1971

Football is contradictory. I learned this from a young age, experiencing the strongest emotions it evoked. I was ecstatic at Totti’s goals and Del Piero’s dribbles, and I gritted my teeth when Gigi Buffon conceded a goal. The joy of watching them on TV was immense. Back then, I didn’t understand marketing, politics, or that there was an unseen, rancid side. For me, it was simply the most beautiful thing on Earth, viewed enchanted on the tiny screen of a tube TV. I didn’t understand that it was unbalanced and, more than other sports, it was a men’s sport. A sport where women had no place. “I’m watching the match with the boys,” “I’m going away with the boys,” “I played football with the boys”—that’s how things usually went.

For the naive, the world of top championships seems glamorous and transparent. Well-dressed men present competition schedules and draw opponents, athletes with stylish haircuts and sculpted bodies compete in glittering arenas, replicating the clashes of ancient gladiators. Strategists on the bench, in the shadows, think up winning moves. A show. Things are presented, as someone said, at the highest level.

But at the same time, the king of sports represents a closed business, with high stakes and difficult entry. It’s something that remains resistant to changes and innovative ideas. Offside is offside, rules are rules. Updates come slowly, with much effort, and always face infinite adverse reactions, comments, and debates. A tightly sealed box, caught in the snares of a conservative adhesive.

In this context, intruders are viewed with suspicion. They make their way with difficulty—if they manage to infiltrate at all. Surely, they’ve come to spoil things, to stir the waters... Copa 71 speaks precisely about this physical and mental wall that women had to climb in a patriarchal world when they demanded to be accepted into the great family of football. A year after the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, local businessmen with a nose for profit saw the potential of an already created infrastructure and wanted to replicate the event, but with representatives of the “fairer sex.” Without FIFA’s acceptance and despite the threat of fines and disaffiliations, the tournament was held and recorded full stadiums, adrenaline, sweat, and many memories. It was a recital of goals and spectacular plays, and a joy for tens of thousands of spectators.

The passion of those girls, now aged, how they remember all the details even after 50 years, is touching and speaks of the power of desire. Of the ambition to move mountains for their own dream. For them, Copa 71 meant everything. Co-produced by Serena and Venus Williams, the film explores their stories with great candor, viewing the moment as a prelude to the legitimization of women’s football and, more broadly, a statement for authentic feminism.

Back then, those brave women chose to leap into the unknown. Their struggle—paved with humiliations, silence, and the desire of rulers to erase proof that those moments even existed—was not in vain!

Article written by Ion Indolean.