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BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS

Who does the UK's first-ever statue to a female footballer honour?

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Lily Parr's statue.
Lily Parr's statue. -
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Mars
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The eighth Women's World Cup is coming to stadiums all over France this summer, with the host nation taking on South Korea on June 7 in Paris.

In the meantime, the UK's first-ever public statue of a female footballer player was inaugurated on Monday at the National Football Museum in Manchester.

It honours one of the early trailblazers of women’s football, 1920s player Lilian "Lily" Parr.

Her life-size bronze statue was made by sculptor Hannah Stuart, a century on from Parr making her debut for St Helens Ladies team as a 14-year-old.

A life spent playing

Parr, the only woman to be granted a spot in the Manchester National Football Museum's English Football Hall of Fame, first started making a name for herself when she was spotted and recruited, during the First World War by the women's team of Dick, Kerr & Co, a munitions factory in Preston, Lancashire.

At the time, Parr's team played against both men and women, and the matches attracted quite a crowd: a famous event on December 26, 1920, at Goodison Park drew more than 53,000 spectators.

Parr was considered to have a harder shot than any male player of the time, a quality she had worked on since playing football with her brothers on waste ground in St Helens as a kid.

In her first year with the club, she scored 108 goals. By the end of her career with the Dick, Kerr Ladies FC, she would score 986.

When, in 1921, the Football Association banned women from playing on their members' grounds, since "the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged", Parr and her team continued playing on village greens and other non-associated land, even touring America in 1922. Out of nine games played against the top division men's team, they won three, drew three and lost three matches.

Even after the Dick, Kerr's Ladies lost the support of their factory and changed their name to the Preston Ladies, Parr continued playing with them, and later went on to train as a nurse. She played women's football with the Preston Ladies until 1951, including another tour abroad - in France, this time.

Aside from being considered a pioneer of women's football, Parr is also currently considered an LGBT icon, since she lived with her partner, Mary, until she died of breast cancer in 1978.

Her statue was commissioned by Mars as part of its #SupportHer campaign, launched in honour of the Lionesses — England's women's national football — and to inspire future female sports stars.

Now, Lily Parr's sculpture can be admired among the trailblazers, stars, cult heroes and fan favourites of British football, in an area of the museum exploring their lifestyles, and the challenges and prejudices that they have had to overcome.

“This is a momentous moment and Lily thoroughly deserves this honour. As a female footballer, it’s inspiring to see the progress we’re making in celebrating women in sport. Women’s football has come a long way since it first began", said Faye White, the longest-serving captain of England to date.