Read the previous articles in the series: Part 1 Click HERE and Part 2 Click HERE 


The best years for France and Belgium (1)

During the following years international women’s football was almost exclusively the business of teams from France and Belgium. In Belgium women’s football reached a peak in the 1925-26 season with nine teams competing in the national championship, which was won by Brussels Fémina. Before the championship started, Brussels Fémina and Atalante were touring Portugal and Spain and, as far as we know, this tour was without scandals but a public success. Brussels Fémina won four out of the six matches, drawing one and only losing once to Atalante. The two Belgian clubs spent two weeks on the Iberian Peninsula.

Brussels Fémina Club before their match at Vigo against Atalante which they won 3-0
Back row (left to right): Van Dyck, Ven Kesteren?, Van Truyen, Droogmans, Geeroms?, J. Toitgans
Front row (left to right): Pinnel, Evrard, Duchâteau, M. Stevens, L. Stevens
Source: La Vida Galega 21-10-1925 / Biblioteca de Galicia

Table. 3.1
The tour of Brussels Fémina and Atalante de Jette through Portugal and Spain in 1925

Ghent Fémina, a club that had been formed only recently, made their international debut in autumn 1925 with two matches against Atalante de Lille. The team from Northern France proved to be the more experienced team and won both matches.

On 11th April 1926, the third full international between Belgium and France was played, this time on the Terrain de Sparta A.C. in Brussels-Molenbeek. About 5,000 witnessed the match of the brave Belgium women against their very superior French rivals, who played with their best squad. Referee was Hamus from Luxembourg again. Belgium was fighting an uphill struggle, defending most of the time and only occasionally threatening the French goal. For the first time most of the French players came from Fémina (seven out of eleven), while the others came from the Muguettes (2), Clodo and Les Cadettes (one each). Led by Madeleine Bracquemond and Carmen Pomiès, France was attacking almost constantly but only Madeleine Bracquemond was able to find the back of the net after 27 minutes. All the other attempts were foiled by the brilliant Marceline Creyf (Ghent Fémina) in goal who was often described as the best Belgian goalkeeper in the 1920s. The two defenders Georgette Van Dyck (Brussels Fémina) and Angéle Speltjens (Atalante) also played great. Belgium had the first national team with players not only from the capital (the players from the provincial clubs in France never made it to the final XI in the first three matches, only Lecomte / Sportives de Reims came close as the first reserve player in 1923) but also with two players from Ghent Fémina. The others were from Brussels Fémina, Atalante, Inno and Olympic Fémina. The superiority of France was remarkable, especially in the final 15 minutes, when they “bombarded” the Belgian goal. Belgian commentators were not very happy with the standard of play of their team, criticising the lack of any technical abilities or ball control and the absence of team-play. “Only braveness, nothing but braveness. Our sports women still have plenty to learn” (F. Francqué in L’Auto 15-4-1926).

Left to right: Three outstanding players of Belgium in the third full international
Marceline Creyft, one of the best goalkeepers of her time from Ghent Fémina who later played one season for William Elie
Georgette Van Dyck, defender for Brussels Fémina
Angéle Speltens, defender for Atalante and William Elie
Source All pictures: Archive Helge Faller

The two captains Madeleine Bracquemont (France) and Emilienne Joncret (Belgium) shake hands before kick off of the third match between these two countries
Referee Hamus watching the scene
Source: L’Auto 1926-4-13 / Courtesy of Gallica BNF

Women’s Football in France and Belgium was very well developed in the 1925-26 season. Belgium not only had their national championship but also multiple smaller competitions, while France had 21 teams in the three categories of the Parisian championship and three provincial teams. Fémina had formed their classic line-up and won the French and Paris championship undefeated as well as the Coupe La Française, which was played for the last time as the French national cup. From next season on the cup transformed into the national championship, in which every French club could participate. Up to that season, the Parisian and Toulouse clubs had had to qualify for the national championship.

The 1926-27 season was another important year for Belgium. In the national championship the provincial club Ghent won the title in great style (becoming the only provincial cup to win a national championship in France or Belgium) and played two international matches against some good French teams. On 17th April they beat Nova Fémina in Paris 2-1 and six weeks later the new ambitious club A.S. Cheminots de l’Etat (from Paris) held the Belgian champion to a 0-0 draw in Valenciennes. There was some reason to believe that Ghent would dominate Belgian women’s football over the following years. Atalante played in Lille on Christmas Day 1926, winning 2-0 against C.A.S.G. de Lille (formerly known as Atalante de Lille). The clubs from Belgium obviously showed good form that season.

Table 3.2
International club matches in 1926 and 1927

Belgium caused in their fourth international one of the biggest upsets in early women’s football when they beat France 2-1 in 1927
Back row (left to right): Alina Schuyt (Olympic Fémina), Germaine Goosens (Atalante), Emilenne Joncret (Atalante), Marguerite Braeckeveldt (Ghent Fémina), Elise Van Truyen (Brussels Fémina), Jeanne Geeroms (Brussels Fémina)
Front row (left to right): Françoise Desmedt (Brussels Fémina), Jenny Toitgans (Brussels Fémina), Henriette Van Daelen (Atalante), Léontine Stevens (Brussels Fémina), Charlotte Vervaet (Ghent Fémina)
Source: Agence Rol / Courtesy of Gallica BNF

The France vs. Belgium match was played on 10th April in Paris in the Stade Fémina (= Stade Elisabeth) in front of 2,000 spectators. That match was Belgium’s masterpiece. France had some problems getting a grip on the match. The best actions came from the Belgian players (originating from the same five clubs as in the previous year). Elise Van Truyen (Brussels Fémina) was in goal this year and kept the high standard of goalkeeping set by Creyf in the 1926 match. But Belgium had improved in every department, especially in team play. Both goals (scored by the famous Jenny Toitgans from Brussels Fémina club) were brought out through beautiful combinations, with Charlotte Vervaet (Ghent Fémina) on outside left playing a great match and so did Aline Schuyt (Olympic Fémina). France played one of their worst international matches ever. Nothing worked, Lucienne Laudré (La Clodo) even missed a penalty and Ida Rebardy (Fémina) was responsible for the second goal for Belgium. Madeleine Bracquemond was visibly annoyed and stood out for her brutality rather than wit of play, still being one of the best players of her team along with Marie Calvet (C.A.S.G. de Marseille, the first player in the national French XI from a provincial club) and Jeanne Ferrat (Les Cadettes de Gascogne). A later report singled newcomer Calvet out as the outstanding player in an otherwise weak French team. It is interesting to note that the Pomiès wasn’t even mentioned, though she played in midfield. Though Fémina was still the backbone of the national team, six players came from other clubs (Muguettes, Clodo, Cadettes and C.A.S.G. de Marseille).

Scene from the match
Joncret (far right) blocking Laudré while Pomiès is watching
Source: Miroir des Sports 1927-4-13 / Archive Helge Faller

Goalkeeper Ida Rebardy (Fémina Sport / left) played her second and last full international
Lucienne Laudré (La Clodo / right), one of the best French forwards in the 1920s missed a penalty in France’s worst international in the interwar years
Source: Agence Rol / Courtesy of Gallica BNF

Jeanne Ferrat (Les Cadettes de Gascogne) was one of the few players in the fourth full internationals that played up to expectations
Source: Agence Rol / Courtesy of Gallica BNF

Marie Calvet (C.A.S.G. de Marseille) was one of the most exceptional “Footballeuses” during the interwar years
Although she only played during the second half of the 1920s, she was often singled out as the best player of her time, even ahead of Bracquemond and Pomiès
She played three full internationals in 1927, 1929 and 1930 and reached the final of the French championship with her club in 1930, losing only in the replay after dominating Fémina most of the time. In 1930 she quit football in favour of athletics
She was the first international player of France from outside Paris
Source: Archive Helge Faller

15 teams took part in the French championship of 1926-27 with a final pool of four teams instead of a semi-final and final. Fémina won the championship but only in the decider after being equal on points with Les Cadettes. On the regional level Fémina also won the Paris championship (again in three categories with 17 teams altogether), and C.A.S.G. won the Championship of the Provence. In Belgium, as mentioned, Ghent won the championship which consisted of eight teams, and Atalante won the first national cup.

Rutherglen’s tours (2)

The United Kingdom came back into the focus of international women’s football thanks to Rutherglen and their somewhat peculiar tour through Ireland. England had quite a few matches in 1926 thanks to the strike including a revival of the Munitionettes cup winner Blyth Spartans, while Dick, Kerr’s was on the decline. In Wales Glamorganshire almost got its own women’s football league when the death of Miss C.V. Richards, who died after complications with a broken leg she had received in a match on 30th October 1926, ended all plans for the league. Her death was reported in the press throughout Europe. Scotland had some clubs playing occasional matches but the most important teams were Rutherglen and Edinburgh. These two were touring Scotland between 1925 and 1927, sometimes interchanging players. In May 1927 they went on tour through Northern Ireland, and during their stay the party was joined by several Irish women footballers, some of them having played between 1917 and 1921 with Winnie McKenna as the best known of them. The star of the Irish players was the Molly Seaton, who, impressive in every way, was one of the physically most gifted players in the interwar period and a great scorer as well. After Rutherglen had played a match in Dublin against a local team (which was the first women’s football match in Dublin since 1896 of that we currently know of), Rutherglen continued their tour of Northern Ireland with matches now advertised as “Rutherglen vs Ireland” or “Scotland vs. Ireland”, as the former Edinburgh team now consisted of six Irish and five Scottish women. And the Irish players added some class to the former Edinburgh team even holding Rutherglen to a draw. Both teams then headed for Scotland where they continued the tour under the name “Scotland vs. Ireland”, with Team Ireland winning some of the games. They even played a match in Manchester. As currently no line-up of the matches in Scotland (and Manchester) has surfaced it is not known, how many Irish women played in Scotland. We only know that the Irish women Molly Seaton and Lizzy Wilson were always part of the Irish team and scored a huge number of goals. In the following year the tour started in spring and Seaton was – as far as we know – the only Irish player in Team Ireland. Both teams again crossed the Irish Sea and played at least three matches in September 1928. Unfortunately, the information in the sources is very sparce so we only can say that Molly Seaton and Lizzy Wilson played for Team Ireland.

Table 3.3:
The Rutherglen vs. Edinburgh exhibition matches in Northern Ireland 1927

Table 3.4
The international and semi-international matches of Rutherglen in Ireland, Scotland and England 1927

Taking a look at Rutherglen’s tour and the activities in France and Belgium, one can clearly see the difference of women’s football cultures in mainland Europe and in the United Kingdom. While the international matches on the British Isles always had the touch of a “football show” with two teams touring under changing names (and always interchanging players), almost constantly visiting smaller towns and villages throughout the year and creating a small sensation when they played there, the two leading European countries took matters more seriously and played organized football in a way that could be compared to their male counterparts. There were, of course, exhibition matches (called “matches de propagandre” or “deplacements”), but they were not the norm. Usually, they were played around Easter or in the closing stages of the season and were both a way to raise some money and a way to propagate the idea of women’s football in France and other countries. The Rutherglen tours through Scotland and Ireland (including the match in Manchester) in 1927 and 1928 were a remarkable achievement, but one should be careful to overestimate the importance of these matches. In some aspects these matches have similarities to the matches by the British Ladies Football Club and the Original Lady Footballers (a.k.a. Mrs. Graham’s XI), with, of course, a higher standard of football. But with the exception of the Dublin match in 1927, it was always the same two teams that played each other. The matches against male teams were, quite frankly, not more than a farce.

Table. 3.5
The semi-international Scotland vs. Ireland tour through Scotland and Northern Ireland 1928.


Signs of a decline (3)

In 1927-28 it became obvious that women’s football was slowly declining in France and Belgium. Most clubs in France had trouble to field a full XI during the matches of the championship. The Paris championship for the second teams was not held any more, the remaining “équipes seconds” took part in the two leagues of the regular Paris Championship, which consisted of 14 teams. The second teams were also allowed to participate in the French championship, so a record number of 19 registered for the championship, but four of them gave w.o. in the first round. The championship of the Provence consisted of three teams. Fémina won the French championship beating the new club Dunlop (who played in the second Parisian division) 4-1 in the final. The championship of Belgium was a farce, the cup wasn’t even played. After some spectacular victories in test matches, Ghent Fémina was disqualified from the championship and lost its license under circumstances still obscure. Only four teams played in the championship. Brussels Fémina had stopped all football activities. Most of the playing members founded a new club under the name of the popular actor William Elie. Several of the Ghent players joined William Elie or Atalante. But still the clubs had trouble to play owing to a lack of players, so more than half of the matches were walk overs as one side (and in one case both sides) was unable to field at least seven players. In the replay of the championship decider between Atalante and William Elie the latter was only able to find eight players for this important match. No wonder that Atalante won easily and thus finally won their first championship.

For Belgium these were difficult conditions to live up to their great form of the 1927 match against France. About 3,000 to 4,000 spectators watched the fifth Belgium vs. France match in the Stade Communal in Brussels-Schaerbeek and the saw a French team out for revenge and a home team lacking stamina and balance owing to the low number of competitive matches during the season. France was attacking most of the time and soon got a two-goal lead by Lucienne Laudré (Clodo) and Jeanne Ferrat (Les Cadettes – she stepped in as a reserve player for Marie Calvet of Marseille, who was unable to participate). Somehow, Belgium managed to reply through Antoinette Gallemaers (Atalante) but it was soon obvious that France was by far the better team on that day. Carmen Pomiès, who was the best player of France, scored her first goal for France with a penalty for hands after 25 minutes. In the second half, Lucienne Laudré scored her second goal and a misunderstanding between Maunoir and Barberau led to an own-goal by the former. Several attacks by France followed but no more goals were added so France won 4-2. Apart from Pomiès, Laudré, Ferrat and Cécile Arsac (Clodo) were the outstanding players of the French team. It is interesting to note that this was the only French match without Bracquemond. It was also the last match of the Laloz sisters for France. After their club Golfers Club had folded during the season, Geneviève and Marguerite were without a club but still received an invitation to participate in the international, which speaks for their footballing abilities. Geneviève was reserve player and Marguerite played as inside-left. Thérèse Laloz had died from a heart attack in September 1925 during a running event. Belgium was a shadow of their previous year’s team. Only goalkeeper Marie Hardenne (Inno), left back Sidonie Verschueren and centre-forward Henriette Van Daelen showed good form.

Scene from the 1928 interntional
Sidonie Verschueren attempts to shoot but Yvette Maunoir is getting in her way
Van Daelen behind her is hoping for a chance.
Source: Geillustreede Sportwereld No. 363 1928 / Archive Helge Faller

Left to right – three of Belgium’s best players in the late 1920s
Antoinette Gallemaers (Atalante) who scored against France in 1928
Goalkeeper Maria Hardenne (Inno) who prevented her team from a much heavier defeat in 1928
Jeanne Geeroms (Brussels Fémina & William Elie)
Source (right and left pictures): Archive Helge Faller, (middle picture): Agence Role / Courtesy of Gallica BNF

From left to right
Yvette Maunoir, France’s top full back in the 1920s who played for Muguettes and Dunlop, her team-mate in both clubs and the national team was J. Boutaud
Finally, Cécile Maugars-Arsac, top athlete and footballer for Fémina and La Clodo
Sources: Agence Rol / courtesy of Gallica BNF (left and middle) and Archive Fémina Sport)

But things were getting better after the crisis for Belgium. On 13th May 1928, French vice-champion Dunlop visited William Ellie and the club from Brussel was able to hold their visitors from Paris to a 1-1 draw.

In France things didn’t change much in the 1928-29 season. Fémina was dominating the Parisian championship (with the A-team becoming champion and the B-team as runners-up) and had Dunlop, whom they beat in extra time, as their main rival in the French championship. The number of teams participating in the French championship and the two regional championships hadn’t changed. Belgium was back again with a championship divided in two leagues (8 teams) and Antwerpen as a second centre for women’s football. But here the rivalry between William Ellie and Atalante led to a turbulent final of the season. At first, the clubs Schaerbeek Fémina (the successor of Brussels Fémina) and Inno quit the federation, as it was to male-dominated, and founded the Union Belge des Sports Féminins, even playing their own competitions. After a brutal cup-final (William Ellie were notorious for their rough play) and the suspension of Rachel de Boom (Atalante), several players left their clubs and joined Ajax Antwerpen, a club just founded several months earlier. Ajax organized a new federation and for a short time Belgium had three women’s football federations.

The Rivalry between Atalante and William Elie (4)

And nonetheless Belgium was back on track in the 1928-29 season, the performance of their national team reached an all-time low in their sixth match against France on 14th April 1929 in Paris (again in Stade Elisabeth). About 3,000 to 4,000 people came this time to see an overwhelming 6-0 triumph for the “Bleus”. Marie Calvet of C.A.S.G. de Marseille was back again and played a brilliant match according to the reports in the press. She was responsible for four out of the six goals and (again) outshone Bracquemond and Pomiès, who did nearly all the scoring (two by Bracquemond, three by Pomiès), but most of the goals came thanks to the great passes of Calvet. France was in search for a good goalie for their national team, and Rita Lefébvre (Basco-Béarnaises) was the third goalkeeper in three years. Fémina lost a bit of their dominance in the French team as only three players of the champion stood in the French XI. The others came from C.A.S.G. Marseille, Basco, Club des X, Dunlop and Clodo. Belgium, who was confident before the match to obtain a good result, was a combination of players from William Elie and Atalante including one from Ajax Antwerp, J. Thys. Belgium lacked the technical abilities of the French players. Their players were also slower than their counterparts and above all they lacked cohesion. So, in the first half, as a result of two rapid counter-attacks by Calvet and Pomiès, France scored twice. In the second half France was even more superior and after a pass by Calvet Bracquemond augmented the score. During a confusing situation on front of the Belgian goal, Sidonie Verschueren (Atalante) scored an own-goal, after which Calvet served twice for Bracquemond and Pomiès, both scoring for the final result 6-0. Apart from these three the report also mentioned the backs Yvette Maunoir (Dunlop) and Renée Compoix (Club des X) along with right half Boyer (Fémina) as best players for France. For Belgium even though receiving six goals the defence with S. Verschueren and Jenny Jennings-Neefs (William Elie) were singled out as best players, with Jeanne Geeroms and Georgine Braeckeveld (both William Elie) as the best of the rest. J. Thys, the Ajax player, was designated the worst player on the pitch.

The commentaries in the Belgian press blamed the rivalry of the two big clubs from Brussel for the devastating result, which was shown in the very rough play during the try-out matches.

The 1929-30 season brought no relief to the somewhat chaotic situation in Belgian women’s football. Most of the clubs refused to play in the official championship and national cup. In the end only two clubs (William Elie and Fémina Antwerpen, a new club) played for the national championship, and with Ajax a third club participated in the national cup. Once again, the Belgian championship was more or less a farce. The other clubs played a league which was called “championships of the opposition-clubs”. William Elie won the double for the second time while Atalante was the best in the opposition league. But all the trouble notwithstanding there were three international matches by club teams. Atalante and their farm team En Avant travelled to Paris in November 1929 and played Fémina and their farm team Hirondelles. Both French teams were superior, and while Fémina beat the Belgian vice-champion Atalante 3-0, Hirondelles (who finished last in the first Parisian division) beat En Avant (third place in Belgium) 2-0. In another match, on the same day as the Belgium vs. France match in April 1930, Atalante lost to Dunlop in the match of the previous year’s vice-champion 0-2, although Dunlop played without their international players. By the end of May, William Elie and Fémina Antwerpen vistited Luxembourg-Ville for the (as far as we know) second women’s football match in the Grand Dutchy.

Scene from the match Hirondelles vs. En Avant, with Bova (Hirondelles) securing the ball
Source: Le Petit Journal 1929-11-4 / courtesy of Gallica BNF

Left to right:
Bova, goalkeeper for Ruche and Hirondelles and Brulay the captain of Hirondelles. Goynard became one of the few internationals of Fémina in the 1930s who played full internationals. Concord was one of the newcomers of Fémina in the late 1920s
Source: Agence Rol / courtesy of Gallica / BNF

Left to right: Cavenaille and Lebon, two of En Avant’s outstanding players
Desmedt, Belgium’s record player and Kerckhove, who started for l’Elite early in her career were both players for Atalante in the 1929-30 season
Source: Agence Rol / courtesy of Gallica BNF

Table 3.6
International club matches and exhibition matches 1929 and 1930.

Women’s football in France was further on the decline. The support by the F.F.S.F. wasn’t as strong as in previous years and the teams had more trouble than before finding suitable grounds. Only eleven clubs played in the two Parisian leagues, thirteen in the French championship and (again) three in the championship of the Provence. The dominance of Fémina in French women’s football was also slowly fading. In the final of the French championship, they manged somehow to hold the superior C.A.S.G. de Marseille (with Marie Calvet) to a draw after extra-time and in an act of strength beat the team from the Provence 4-2 in the replay after being 1-2 down at half-time.

The seventh Belgium vs. France international was played in Antwerp. Belgium, owing to the circumstances, was a combination of players from William Elie and Fémina Antwerpen. The team did their best in the first half and managed to hold France 0-0 up to the 27th minute. Then Bracquemond opened the score (after Calvet missed the goal from two meters). In the second half it was all France in front of about 1,000 spectators. Calvet again was playing some excellent passes, one of which Bracquemond converted for the second French goal. The further goals of France were scored by Maunoir and Boutaud. France this time played with six Fémina-players, the other five coming from Cadettes, Clodo, Dunlop (2) and C.A.S.G. de Marseille, and was at that time at their peak. Belgium had their best player in goalkeeper Elise Van Truyen, who saved her team from a heavy defeat.

Bracquemond passing to Calvet during the match in Antwerp
Both players were leading France to another landslide-victory over Belgium
Source: Excelsior 1930-4-8 / courtesy of Gallica BNF


The Restart in the United Kingdom (5)

In 1930-31 women’s football in the United Kingdom seemed to have reached a turning point. Preston Ladies (late Dick, Kerr’s) were back on track after four years and started a tour through England, mostly against their farm-team which they call “Rest of England”, in fact a combination of some veteran players of Fleetwood, Chorley and Horrockses and some new arrivals. This revival was culminating in a match in Belfast against Ulster (a selection of players from Northern Irish teams). In a hard-fought match, the Irish women, led by Molly Seaton, who was in great form, only lost by the odd goal in five. Later it was claimed by the English press that Ulster played with a male goalkeeper disguised as a woman. Northern Ireland had a brief boom during this time, lasting for about 18 months. It was a pretty active period but not a “Golden Age”, as there were very few matches after 1932, after about 25 in 1931 and 15 to 20 in 1932 (France, for instance, had about 150 to 250 matches each year, Belgium about 50 to 80). It could be observed that women’s football in most countries during the 1920s and 1930s didn’t evolve in a long-term development but more in brief eruptions, when out of the blue several teams were formed simultaneously, sometimes even a federation (Australia, New Zealand), and then from one year to the next women’s football almost completely disappeared or was reduced to some occasional matches often without any external reason like a ban by the federation or state authorities. We have post-war examples for this in Austria (1923-24), Germany (1920-21), Poland (1921-23), Spain (1923 and 1930-1932), Australia (1920-21, 1925, 1928-29,1931-32), New Zealand (1920-1923) or the Netherlands (1920-1923). It was the same in Northern Ireland (1920-21, 1927-28 / Rutherglen tour, 1931-32) and Wales (1920-21). Even Scotland was almost a blank sheet in women’s football terms between 1929 and 1934 with only a few matches between female teams and some novelty matches between men and women. Up until 1933, only France, Belgium and England had a steady development, the latter without any kind of organization body though.

Northern Ireland and Preston were playing the first international match in the UK in the 1930s
Source: Belfast Telegraph 1931-7-28 / British Newspaper Archive

Table 3.7
International club matches in Great Britain 1931 and 1932.

There was another match in England with an international flair in 1931, when Madeleine Jeannot-Bracquemond (who had just married) came over and played in a team (highly probably the “Rest of England” team) against Preston. In a one-sided match in Stockport, Preston won 8-1 with Bracquemond scoring the only goal for her team. Preston was also on a small tour (two matches only) in Wales playing their standard opponent “Rest of England”. Finally, the two Northern Irish teams York Street and Ropeworks played an exhibition match on the Isle of Man, the only time an Irish team left Ireland between 1921 and 1950 (as far as we know).

Table 3.8
International exhibition matches in the UK in 1931.

The slow decline of women’s football in France continued while Belgium recovered after the two federations have reunited. Only eight teams played in the French championship while there were still twelve teams in the two division of the Paris championship. Fémina won both but not in a convincing style. In Belgium, nine teams played in two division for the championship. William Elie lost several players and was furthermore no serious opposition for Atalante. This role was taken over by Fémina Antwerpen. Atalante won the championship in the last match of the season against Fémina Antwerpen and in the cup final although the by far better team Fémina Antwerpen was held to draw by En Avant and lost by a coin toss. The only international match was (the eighth) France vs. Belgium in Douai on the 22nd May 1931 before up to 5,000 spectators. Belgium was still inferior to France although they did much of the attacking in the first minutes of the match thanks to the wind which blew in their favour. But the counter-attacks by France were more effective and so Pomiès and Bracquemond scored after 20 and 25 minutes. The defence of the home team rarely had something to do and France scored again. Van Truyen was unable to control a ball after a 40m-free kick by Maunoir (Dunlop) and Bracquemond was there for her second goal. The last goal of the first half was scored by Taifa Hadjelachte (Club des X), whose family came from Istanbul and had moved to France just before her birth. Her sister Leila, born in Turkey, was also playing for Club des X. In the second half France was still attacking, but Van Truyen (and the cross-bar after a shot by Goynard) saved Belgium from a more severe defeat. Apart from Bracquemond and Pomiès, Jacobs (also from Fémina) was the best player for France. Again, six players came from Fémina, two each from Cadettes and Dunlop and one from Club des X. Van Truyen (William Elie) in goal was by far the best player of Belgium executing some marvellous saves. The Belgian team was selected from Atalante (3), William Elie (4) and Fémina Antwerpen (3).

Pomiès (left) and Bracquemond were still playing in the national team but the latter left Fémina and joined Dunlop in 1931
Source: Agence Rol / courtesy of Gallica BNF

In the 1930s there was a second wave of women’s football rolling over Europe. But this wave was hampered by the political (rise of fascism) and social (male dominance) situation. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to assume that without these hindrances women’s football would have developed in a way comparable to Handball or Hockey. The first example (chronologically) is Spain. Some clubs formed around 1930 and 1931 (most notably in Valencia and Madrid) and played matches throughout the country. After 1932 it was all over.

Fémina’s return to the UK (5)

1932 also saw the revival of the English-French matches when Fémina (assisted by the two guest players Andrée Gauckler (Cadettes) and Mirone (Olympique de Marseille) was invited for a tour through England and Ireland. Four matches were played. After Preston won 4-2 in Sheffield (after being down 0-2 at half-time), the French champion was defeated somewhat easily with 7-2 in Preston, which indicates that Preston soon gathered their old strength after their restart and that Fémina was on the downward slope after Jeannot-Bracquemond had left to join the rivals Dunlop. The most interesting matches were the two played in Belfast and Bangor against an Irish selection. There had been plans since 1920 that a French team should play against an Irish team, and finally it came true. The Irish were a combination of players from Belfast and Bangor (one in the first, three in the second match). Led by the charismatic Molly Seaton, the Irish women played two of their best matches in their early history. It was certainly no disadvantage that during 1931 and 1932 there were several teams playing regular matches and even a cup, so Fémina had plenty to do to win 4-3 in an intense match. Three players were injured: Rice of Ropeworks, Molly Seaton, who was rushed to hospital after the match, and Carmen Pomiès had to be replaced at half-time. The latter two were unable to play the following day in Bangor. In the second match in Bangor the Irish team won 1-0 after a goal by Gladys Gordon from Bangor. This was one of the biggest upsets in international women’s football in the inter-war period. Both teams played without their captains and again it was an intense match. During the first half two players from Bangor and from Fémina were involved in a fistfight. After half-time the Irish woman received a somewhat “French excuse” from her French opponent as she was kissed on both cheeks. The number of spectators assembled in Preston (10,000 to 12,000) and Belfast (15,000) was impressive.

Finally, the Northern Irish team played a French team in 1932
The scene is from the first match in Belfast.
n the second at Bangor they caused an upset as they beat Fémina 1-0.
Source: Belfast Telegraph 1932-8-5 / British Newspaper Archive

Table 3.9
Fémina’s tour of England and Ireland 1932.

Left to right – Preston Ladies after the break were still fielding a top team
Sue Chorley became Preston’s top-scorer in the first half of the 1930s
Lily Parr, one of the best-known players of the interwar period, was less active during the early 1930s
Lizzy Ashcroft, vice-captain and later short-time captain of the Preston Ladies was one of the outstanding full backs in England
Polly Scott’s career spanned over almost two complete decades. She played international matches for Fleetwood, Plymouth International and Dumfries before joining Dick, Kerr’s / Preston Ladies
Margaret Thornborough was one of the important new recruits of the Lancashire team
Source: Courtesy of Archive Fémina Sport

Fémina was at a turning point when they revived their connections to the Preston Ladies in 1932
The dominance of the late 1920s was over but the club had still some good players and invited guest players to join the club on their UK-tours
Left to right: Yolande Behr, who was one of Fémina’s better forwards
goalkeeper Marie-Louise Deroulet-Mayer, who also played for Preston during the tour of the Belgian selection in 1934
Andrée Gauckler, the experienced player from Les Cadettes the Gascoigne who was one of the guest-players
Source: Courtesy of Archive Fémina Sport

Preston had another international match in 1932 when they played newly formed Lovell’s Newport, a very young team, which lost quite honourably 0-5 in a match under floodlight (the second in Wales after Lovell’s played Cardiff under floodlight in Newport two months earlier).

France and Belgium were stagnating a bit with Atalante getting more and more dominant in Belgium when they managed to win the championship with 8 wins out of 8 matches. Fémina and Dunlop were on  the same level in the Parisian championship, but Fémina dominated the French championship, the last one that was played.

For the last time before the war an international match between Belgium and France was played in Belgium, and the venue was quite spectacular as the women’s football federation of Belgium was able to play the match at the famous Heysel stadium. 6,000 spectators watched the match and saw a better home side than in the previous matches. Especially the defense with Sidonie Verschueren (Atalante) and Rachel Sylva-de Boom (Fémina Antwerpen) was excellent and the goalkeeper M. Braet (Fémina Antwerpen) was also in great form. France was almost constantly attacking but their forwards were unable to score and didn’t play in their best form. Bracquemond did not have her best day, only Mirone (Olympique de Marseille) and Louise Dimenet (Club des X) played well. The best player on the pitch was Carmen Pomiès, who would have  scored the winner from a  25m distance, if  the referee had not disallowed the goal for offside (of the player on the right wing, who was nowhere near the goal). Belgium was rather lucky to hold a goalless draw until the end, thanks to their fighting spirit, the inaccuracy of the French offense and, in one case, thanks to the referee.

Rachel Sylva-de Boom
Played both in goal and on the field for the Belgium national team  and was one of the most important players of her country in the interwar years
Source: Archive Helge Faller


The categories of international women’s matches in the interwar years

The newspapers (especially the British press) were not always accurate in labelling the international matches correctly. Whenever two teams from different countries played each other, the teams were very likely named by the name of their respective country, suggesting a full international. In fact, only the matches between France and Belgium justified the term full international. All the other matches were of a lower order.

Table 3.10
Categories of international women’s football matches in the interwar period.


Article © Helge Faller 2021

Read the final part of this series [Part 4] HERE 



The author would like to thank Patrick Brennan, who has done pioneering work in the research of women’s football before 1945, Stuart Gibbs for his great help in researching several international matches of the 20s by Dick, Kerr’s / Preston Ladies and invaluable information on Scottish women’s football during the interwar period, Xavier Breuil for some very helpful remarks on the F.S.F.I., Stipica Grigić for providing some very helpful remarks on Yugoslavian women’s football 1937-1939, Matthias Marschik for his tremendous support and Achim Trapp for reviewing the text.

Annotations (for a more detailed list contact the author):

  • See “Het Grote Vertrek – Damesvoetbal en België van 1925 tot 1928“ by Helge Faller (2019, Les Sports et la Femme), L’Auto 4.1926, 4.1927
  • See “The Female Pioneers – A Statistical record of Women’s Football in Great Britain & Ireland from 1881-1953” (3 Vols.) by Helge Faller (2021, Les Sports et la Femme), “Women’s Football in Interwar Scotland – Sadie Smith and the Legendary Rutherglen Ladies” (Parts I and II) by Fiona Skillen and Steve Bolton (2021, Playing Pasts), Part of the Game – The first Fifty Years of Women’s Football in Ireland and the International context” by Helge Faller (2021, pp 58-84 in Studies in Arts and Humanities 7 (20021) 1
  • See “Het Grote Vertrek”, “De Grote Rivalen – Damesvoetbal en België van 1928 tot 1930” by Helge Faller (2022, Les Sports et la Femme / in preparation), L’Auto 4.1928, 4.1929, 11.1929.
  • See “De Grote Rivalen”, “Nos Sportives – Organe bi-hebdomadaire des Sports Féminins” (Bruxelles 1929 & 1930).
  • See “The Female Pioneers”.