Lassies 1, Scots macho men 0

October 17, 2003

Football may be the ultimate symbol of Scottish machismo, but a Stirling University research student has uncovered evidence of women playing football as early as the 1600s.

Jessica Macbeth, a PhD student in Stirling's department of sports studies, has won a grant from the alumni projects fund to expand her research into the history of women's football north of the border.

Women's folk football was probably played only on special occasions, such as Shrove Tuesday, and was likely to have been "quite disorganised" with teams of unequal numbers, Ms Macbeth said.

But women's football began to grow in the late 1800s, with English teams travelling north for matches. The Stirling Observer was scandalised when English "ladies" turned up to play 11 men from Bathgate and allowed their calves to be seen. "More shame to them!" it thundered.

"Throughout the development of the sport, women encountered varying degrees of hostility in Scottish society, particularly from the media and the Scottish Football Association," Ms Macbeth said.

"In fact, in 1921 women were banned from playing football on the grounds of clubs affiliated to the SFA. This ban remained in place until the early 1970s, when the SFA reluctantly offered 'official' recognition to the women's game."

Ms Macbeth, who played on the right wing until she suffered a non-footballing injury, said there were almost 10,000 female players in Scotland, but attitudes would not change until more people realised women's football existed and was of a high standard.

Many female players said that while it was not as powerful a game as men's football, there was more skill involved. "They say people change their minds if they come to see it and realise it's not just a bunch of lassies who haven't a clue kicking at anything," Ms Macbeth said.

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