At the end of a weekend of celebrations for the life and playing exploits of Lily Parr, the first woman to be inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame, England flew to Cyprus for demanding friendlies against Sweden tomorrow and Norway on Thursday before the Euro 2009 qualifying campaign resumes next month.
The women's game is still making up the ground that was lost during the 50 years in which it was in effect banned by the FA. Thirty years after Parr's death, and to coincide with the weekend's events, which included a match between teams from London and Paris and an exhibition of memorabilia at the Hub at Regent's Park, the FA issued a belated apology of sorts for its 1921 edict, part of which read: "the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged".
The crowds during Parr's prime in the 1920s - 53,000 at one game involving the left winger's legendary team Dick Kerr's Ladies - dwarfed some modern attendances. Parr, who was reputed to have a harder shot than any male player of the time, was unusual in that she was professional. She was also a heavy smoker and her payments were supplemented, at her request, by packs of Woodbine cigarettes.
It was, needless to say, a smoke-free England squad on board last night's flight to Larnaca. Eight of the players arrived late at Heathrow after helping the Premier League leaders Arsenal beat Liverpool 5-2 to open a four-point gap at the top of the table. The bottom club Charlton Athletic drew 1-1 with Doncaster Belles in the only other top-flight game.Topics
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