Germany's 50 years of women's football

Five decades of the female game has brought many successes, with more than one million women and girls now registered to play.

50 years of women's football in Germany
50 years of women's football in Germany

On Saturday Germany celebrated its 50-year anniversary of women’s football, marking the many triumphs – both on and off the pitch – accomplished in that time.

With two World Cups, eight European Championships and an Olympic gold medal, Germany is without question one of Europe’s most successful women’s nations. Behind these headline achievements, though, is a story of hard work and commitment that can be traced back half a century.

It was on 31 October 1970 that women’s football was officially added to the German Football Association’s (DFB) statutes. Incorporating the women’s game may have only been made ‘official’ then, but it had taken a long journey to reach even that momentous landmark. From the early years of gaining recognition and fighting for equality, the country now has a sterling reputation at both club and national team level.

A platform for success

Germany pose with the trophy after winning the UEFA Euro 1991 final againstNorway
Germany pose with the trophy after winning the UEFA Euro 1991 final againstNorway Bongarts/Getty Images

The game quickly progressed: a first German women’s championship was held in 1974, won by TuS Wörrstadt. And to this day, the club system is the bedrock of the game in the country – “the lifeblood in German women’s football” as 2014 World Player of the Year Nadine Kessler calls it.

The next big milestone came in the formation of the national team in 1982 and a debut international which took place against Switzerland on 10 November that year. Success on that stage soon came along with a first European championship arriving on home soil just seven years later.

Now, more than 1.1 million women and girls are members of a football club in Germany. Almost 10,000 teams take part in the game. Alongside all the vital volunteers that contribute to the sport, they form the basis for success at the top and a bright future at every level.

A strong message

Speaking about the anniversary, DFB president Fritz Keller said: “Today, it should be natural for us to have women’s football as part of any conversation on the game. We had to – and have to – fight for this relentlessly every day. However, we are making progress. Recently, more and more professional football clubs have invested in women's football and upped their engagement. This is a strong message which has an impact on others."

Nadine Kessler was a UEFA Women's EURO winner with Germany in 2013
Nadine Kessler was a UEFA Women's EURO winner with Germany in 2013©

As a way of acknowledging the half-century, the DFB spoke to 50 of the people who have paved the way and been integral to the success story of women’s football in Germany. Among them was UEFA chief of women’s football Kessler, who said: “I believe we can generate even more interest in women’s football. Visibility is extremely important if men and women are to develop a sustainable interest in the women’s game.”

Coach of the 2007 World Cup winners, Silvia Neid, said in the aftermath of that success that “everywhere I met enthusiastic people who liked women's football” while two-time World and European champion Renate Lingor hailed the progress made, especially in the last few years. “Even in the time after my retirement until today, a lot has happened,” she said. “As a child I didn't know the national team players because they just weren't on television. Today they are known and thus idols and role models for girls.”

Read more from the 50 years, 50 faces series on the DFB website.