On May 27, 1984, in the prehistoric times of international women’s football, Sweden won its first European Women’s Championship. at the expense of England. The second final of the time, in an ugly mud puddle in Luton, shows just how far the sport has come after 38 years.
Sweden, the first European competitor in the European Championship, celebrated Saturday night, at that time after a match that lasted twice 35 minutes and played a smaller ball.
A club of about 2,500 spectators watched from the stands, crowning Sweden itself after penalty kicks as the first European champion ever. Pictures of that match, which can still be found on YouTube, seem to have flown in from another football world.
Only 13 years ago, in the summer of 1984, the FA lifted the ban on women’s football. Without exception, the players had a permanent job in addition to playing football: even the day after the final in Luton, some still had to report to the office.
Therefore, the conditions in which the European Championship was held were not always pleasant. But the fact that a women’s final was recognized by UEFA was a huge leap forward. It was also years before the first World Cup took place.
The European Championship 1984 was special. The final tournament, in which four teams participated, was preceded by sixteen countries qualified. They were divided into four groups, based on their geographical location in Europe.
Below are animations of the first European Women’s Championship final:
The Netherlands also participated in those qualifiers, in a group with Denmark, West Germany and Belgium, and were close to qualifying. On the last day of the match, she lost participation in the European Championship after all, due to the defeat on a visit to the Danes.
The main tournament was held in a knockout system, with a home and away match. The final also featured duels, first in Gothenburg and then that muddy match in Luton.
These last two games were played under very different conditions. Swedish football was far ahead of its counterparts in other European countries. The stadium in Gothenburg was fine and there were twice as many supporters back in Luton.
The Swedish press widely reported that the first leg, which the host team won 1-0. English footballers were amazed to see how serious women’s football is in Sweden.
On the contrary, the international Swedes in Luton were surprised that there was no press presence, except for a few Swedish reporters who traveled with them. The match again ended with a score of 1-0, but this time for the English squad. So the penalties had to decide.
Not surprisingly, Swedish women’s football is far ahead of its counterparts in other countries. Women’s sports experienced a revival in the 1960s. Until then, football was played in a well organized manner as a club.
In addition, women’s football in Sweden was transferred to the National Football Association earlier than in other countries.
Over the years, other football nations have bridged that gap with Sweden. Sports developed in the United States, South America and other countries in Europe.
Sweden has often come close to the best international awards, but it has always gone wrong. The country was headed to the 2003 World Cup finals and narrowly lost an Olympic gold medal in 2016 and 2021. Thus, the 1984 European Championship title is the one and only one on Sweden’s honor roll.
Just over 38 years after winning the Mud Battle in Luton, the Swedish team wants to be the strongest again in the European Championship. And coach Peter Gerhardsson’s team is among the favorites to win the tournament.
The Sweden coach said he was “a fan of the Netherlands”:
Midfielder Natalie Bjorn knows this, too, and sighs when asked why her country has passed an award. “Every year we’re one of the candidates, but that’s also a good sign.”
She sees opportunities to strike with Sweden in this European Championship. “In recent years, we have already built something with our new coach. We have an experienced team, with whom we have already played many major tournaments. But now we want to achieve something bigger.”
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