5 Milestones That Redefined Women’s Football In 2023

By Shyam
6 Min Read
5 Milestones That Redefined Women's Football In 2023

Al Jazeera highlights the greatest moments in women’s football in 2023, including a landmark year in Spanish football, Morocco’s dream debut, and the highest-paid women’s football coach.

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It was the year that Australia and New Zealand hosted the largest and most-watched FIFA Women’s World Cup, culminating with Spain’s crowning moment as first-time champions with a triumph over one of the tournament’s pre-tournament favourites, England.

The United States women’s football heavyweights stumbled in the quarterfinals, while numerous minor nations lighted up the group stage.

The World Cup was full of high-quality action, as well as surprises and heartwarming stories, and it concluded with the birth of Spanish football’s #MeToo movement.

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In other news, US Soccer has tasked Emma Hayes with restoring their fading reputation as the highest-paid women’s football coach in the world.

As the year comes to a conclusion, here are five moments that will define women’s football in 2023:

Nouhaila Benzina Wearing Hijab During Game

Morocco had a lot to say during the tournament in Australia, as Nouhaila Benzina became the first Muslim woman to play in a World Cup while wearing a headscarf.

Football fans, particularly Muslim women, praised Benzina for breaking down the barriers. Millions of people around the world watched as she walked onto the pitch wearing a hijab, just a month after France outlawed the Islamic headscarf during sporting events.

Activist Shaista Aziz was one of several Muslim women who supported Benzina on social media.

“The significance of this is HUGE for many #Muslim girls and women including myself,” Aziz wrote on X.

Morocco’s Impressive Run In Their First World Cup

Morocco may have thought they had done their part by being the first Arab team to qualify for the Women’s World Cup, but the Atlas Lionesses were determined to show them wrong.

“It’s amazing to keep creating history,” star striker Rosella Ayane told Al Jazeera after her team made it to the round of 16 at the tournament.

Fans flocked to cafés, homes, and the streets across Morocco to support the women in red and green as they faced their erstwhile colonizer France in the knockout round.

Despite their sad loss to the French, the Atlas Lionesses’ rise, with several of them playing league football in Europe, endeared them to the football-crazed African nation.

Coaching A Men’s Football Team

Hannah Dingley became the first woman to manage a professional men’s football team in England when she took over as head coach of English League Two club Forest Green Rovers, albeit on a temporary basis.

Dingley only held the position for two weeks, but she was recognized for shattering the glass ceiling for young female managers in men’s football.

Previously, Portuguese coach Helena Costa became the first woman to lead a men’s football team in France when she took over Clermont Foot in 2014.

Several women have coached men’s academy teams, but few have been given the reins of top-flight men’s teams.

Philippines and Zambia’s Impactful World Cup Debutants

The Philippines and Zambia made strong World Cup debuts, defeating New Zealand and Costa Rica respectively. The Philippines’ victory over the co-hosts, in especially, created waves at home, with delirious crowds celebrating the surprise victory.

Jamaica and South Africa, both competing in their second World Cup, were the other surprise shocks, advancing to the knockout stage.

Spanish football’s #MeToo Movement

In what was arguably the most significant moment in women’s football – and women’s sport – in the year 2023, FIFA barred the powerful Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) President Luis Rubiales from the sport for three years for misconduct at the Women’s World Cup final, where he forcibly kissed Spain’s Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the trophy ceremony.

FIFA’s punishment came more than two months after the awful moment was televised across the world as Spain walked onto the podium to receive their medals and trophy. Hermoso responded to the forced kiss in a social media video, saying, “Hey, I didn’t like it, eh.”

She would eventually submit a court complaint against Rubiales, who originally refused to resign and threatened the player with his own legal action.

However, the incident and the subsequent processes sparked Spain’s #MeToo movement, with thousands of women taking to the streets to support Hermoso. Rubiales was also condemned by women’s football teams, fans, and the men’s national team.

As leading football players used the hashtag #SeAcabo [it’s over], it became synonymous with the campaign.

By Shyam
Shyam Sharma who joined SPORTS BIG NEWS in 2021. Focuses on soccer – chiefly the Premier League, LaLiga, UEFA Champions League, Liga MX and MLS. On occasion, also covers American sports, general news and entertainment. Fascinated by the language of sport – particularly the under-appreciated art of translating cliché-speak.