Can you name the striker with over a 1,000 career goals, including a remarkable 43 strikes in their debut season at the age of 14?
If you said: “Pele”, you’re wrong. Meet Lily Parr the greatest female footballer to ever grace the beautiful game.
“She was the only person I knew who could lift a dead ball, the old heavy leather ball, from the left wing over to me on the right and nearly knock me out with the force of the shot.”
Lily Parr’s team-mate Joan Whalley
The name of Dick, Kerr FC’s greatest player of all-time may not spring to mind when having those arbitrary discussions over football’s best ever player. However, that could be about to change, thanks to spoken word artists, Sabrina Mahfouz and Hollie McNish.
On the 24th March, the pair’s co-written ‘OFFSIDE’ play begins its tour, a journey from Edinburgh to Bristol that tells an important story. Through fictional characters, Mickey and Keeley, the duo represent the struggles of every female footballer that Sabrina and Hollie sat down with during their research; as well as detailing and documenting the successes and struggles of two of women’s football’s most important names, Lily Parr and Carrie Bousted.
“The two fictional characters are written to convey the opinions, struggles and triumphs of a number of people we spoke to within the game, now. Whereas, the two historical figures, are real life stories.
“Lily Parr was the first female footballer inducted into the Football Hall Of Fame, and a goalscorer of over a thousand goals. She was very young when she started playing for Dick, Kerr’s Ladies – bit of a strange name, but that’s because it was a factory. And during the First World War, women took over the jobs in the factories, and also the factory football team.
“There’s also Carrie Bousted, the first black female footballer, but there’s much less about her, as she was around in the 1880s. She played for Glasgow, which was basically a representative of Scotland, with Glasgow regularly playing against England.
“We don’t know too much about Carrie. And I had never heard of her until we started researching this show. It’s quite sad, to have the first black female footballer’s breakthrough, to be hardly documented. It feels like something people should know about.”
There’s a level of ignorance in society when it comes to females playing football, a feeling that they’re not as talented or worthy as their male counterparts. But many aren’t aware that the reason women’s football is 50 years behind men’s football, is because the middle-aged, white men of the English Football Association banned women from playing the sport in 1921 – turning a blind eye to the fact that 25,000 people filled the stands to watch the first women’s international game kick-off less than a year earlier, with Preston-based Dick, Kerr’s Ladies beating a French XI 2-0. The ban was lifted 50 years later.
“We hope to make people aware of how many barriers have been put in place around women playing football.
“I think there’s a mainstream view that women’s football isn’t at the same level as men’s football because women don’t like it enough. However, if you look at what has been put in place, in the 1920s the FA banned women from playing football, and they didn’t allow them to play professionally again until the 1970s. You’ve got a huge period of time where women’s football wasn’t allowed to progress, flourish and develop and that explains a huge amount.
“So many female footballers, even if they’re playing for the big teams, they still have to have full-time jobs. And yet they’re also doing full-time training, playing matches; which is pretty astounding and I don’t think that’s right. And I’m not sure people realise the extra sacrifice that has to be made, because they’re not paid well enough.
You have to wonder whether Parr and the heroines of the Dick, Kerr’s team – 828 matches, 758 victories, 46 draws and just 24 defeats, scoring over 3500 goals in the process – will ever truly be appreciated. However, at least the girls have some comfort, whilst kicking a ball about with Bobby Moore and George Best up there, in knowing that times are changing and women’s football is evolving.
And to think, it all started because women stepped into the factories, when their country needed them most – even if it took their country 50 years to finally recognise the gratitude they owed these remarkable figures.
OFFSIDE is a crowdfunded project, that is extremely close to its target. If you’d like to buy tickets, support the great cause or find out more information, click HERE.
CLICKON Soccer would like to offer its sincere thanks to Sabrina Mahfouz for speaking to us.