"COPA 71" documentary sheds light on forgotten record-breaking Women's World Cup

The most attended women's sporting event of all time is documented in "Copa 71"
The most attended women's sporting event of all time is documented in "Copa 71" Copyright Credit: New Black Films/TopFoto/Marina Amaral/Ritzau Scanpix
By Theo FarrantAP
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Sidelined by football's governing body, the unofficial 1971 Women's World Cup tournament faded into obscurity. Now, a film executive produced by Venus and Serena Williams seeks to restore its rightful place in history as one of the most significant events ever held.

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In 2024, women’s football is one of the world’s fastest growing sports.

However, this hasn't always been the case as, after World War II, women were banned or marginalised for playing the beautiful game - which is one of the many reasons that not much is known about the Women’s World Cup in Mexico in 1971.

"Copa 71”, a new documentary, aims to close this gap in awareness. 

Through a compelling blend of rich archival footage and interviews with key figures and players from the tournament, the film explores the remarkable history of the event.

Notably, the final match between Mexico and Denmark garnered the highest attendance in the history of female sports. 

The England players and manager participated without the authorisation of the football governing bodies.
The England players and manager participated without the authorisation of the football governing bodies.Credit: New Black Films/Victor Crawshaw/Marina Amaral

Trudy McCaffrey, a former England football player, vividly recalls the physical sensation of stepping onto the field in front of more than 100,000 spectators at Mexico City's Azteca Stadium. 

“It was just a wave of noise. And you could hear it from the dressing room. And it was the drums. I could feel the drums thudding in my body. That's how loud they were. And it just went on and on, and on and on, all the way through the matches, these drums. And when you walked out onto the pitch, the sound just hit you."

In the documentary, players for Argentina, Mexico, France, Denmark and Italy also look back to August 1971, when they were celebrated for their ball skills and treated like superstars. A far cry from their home countries, where most of them were forbidden from playing on football pitches and were reduced to practising in public parks instead.

Directed by Rachel Ramsey and James Erskine, and executive produced by tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams as well as USA's Women's World Cup-winning striker Alex Morgan, the film is set for release on 8 March in the UK.

Video editor • Theo Farrant

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