In preparation for the Women’s World Cup that begins this evening, I just watched the 1991 final between the U.S. and Norway, which is available in its entirety here. It was televised on the now-defunct SportsChannel via tape delay, so there are commercials throughout the broadcast, but one never misses any game action. Unsurprisingly for an American soccer broadcast from the 1990s, the announcing is terrible, not least because both announcers continuously refer to the women as “girls.” The play-by-play man also keeps using the word “defensing” instead of “defending,” as in “the U.S. did a good job defensing that corner kick.”
I must say that I enjoyed watching the video for its early-1990s quaintness almost as much as I enjoyed watching it for the game action (the match itself is a typical overly-cautious final, with the U.S.’s winning goal coming off a misplayed back pass to the Norwegian goalkeeper). There are classic commercials for products such as Chia Pets and The Clapper, as well as several commercials each from Sprint and AT&T, as this was the heyday of the long-distance wars. The broadcast must have been recorded from a Chicago station, as there are commercials for a Blackhawks game and a Bulls game, and one for the Northern Illinois University women’s basketball team (go Huskies!).
Although 1991 was not that long ago, the match shows that it was a very different era in women’s soccer. Each half was only 40 minutes long, as apparently FIFA was worried that women couldn’t handle a full 90, and the extra time periods would have been 10 minutes each instead of 15. Each team was only allowed two substitutes (this was also the case for the men’s game at the time), and there was a male referee (from the Soviet Union)! The site of the 1995 tournament had also yet to be decided. Similarly, late in the game the color announcer urges viewers to write to the U.S. Olympic Committee to request that women’s soccer be included in the 1996 summer Olympics. Finally, the official name of the match (if the telecast is to be believed) was the FIFA Women’s World Championship M&M’s Cup, not the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is how everyone refers to it now (just like people now refer to “Super Bowl I” when it was actually called the NFL-AFL Championship Game at the time).
It makes me happy that someone has taken the time to put the full match online. One sign that soccer is becoming more and more popular in the U.S. is that Americans are beginning to care more about the history of the game, not just what is going on now, and this video is one example.