Football is more than just a game. Over the last 150 years it has become a source of identity, conflict and debate for all who follow and play it. It has reached the furthest corners of the globe and boasts more players and supporters than any other sport. In this list we will be going right the way through the illustrious, colourful and often tragic history of football and finding out once and for all what the most important moments are in this truly beautiful game.
11. The Dick, Kerr's Ladies (1917-21)
The First World War was a conflict like no other. Throughout history there had been numerous conflicts between nations, but never to the scale of this. Being a total war it required each and everyone to take a role in someway. For women, the front-line wasn't an option - rather most were required to help fill the void left by men in munitions factories across the nation. Munitions were key to the war effort as wave after wave of shells were fired across No-Man's Land and towards the enemy. In an era where women's calls for suffrage had been repeatedly cast to one side - it was a selfless act by many.
As War progressed, the number of the fallen continued to rise - even as high as 60,000 on the first day of the Somme offensive in 1916. Unsurprisingly, domestic morale was low - leading to a group of ladies doing something remarkable. Founded in the Dick, Kerr Munitions Factory in Preston -
kickarounds in the work yard had highlighted the skill of some women in playing a game they had previously been discouraged to play.
Under the management of Alfred Frankland - the team began to attract large crowds at stadiums unused due to the war. This included a staggering 60,000 at Goodison Park in 1920. Playing against other female teams from rival factories it gave women a chance to show off their skill for the first time and be appreciated in doing so. The team was so popular that once the Football League had returned, the Dick, Kerr's Ladies were still drawing larger attendances much to the FA's dismay. In 1921 - the association passed a draconian act to ban women from playing at FA grounds.
This didn't fully stop the women's teams however, as friendlies still took place and internationals were arranged. Striker Lily Parr was the superstar of the team - scoring over 900 goals. Although never reaching the heights of wartime, the club and movement is surely one of the game's most important. It gave women a platform and a voice in a time where both had seem so alien to many. In 1918 - women finally achieved the vote and it seems that football played a big part in making this possible.
12. The White Horse Final (1923)
Football had been taken to the hearts of minds of the public like no other sport. In its first 60 years, it had grown rapidly in the most popular game around the world. By 1923 - the FA Cup had become the sport's leading competition with hundreds of professional and amateur teams entering. The popularity of the competition had led to the final that year being played, for the first time, at Wembley Stadium.
The tie saw Bolton Wanderers face off against London side West Ham United. Under the eyes of King George V - a reported 300,000 fans filled into the stadium and eventually began to spill onto the pitch. Attempting to restore order, the police began to shepherd the fans back to the terraces. Although one of many mounted police helping to get the game underway, the image of a white horse in between thousands of fans has become defined the match. The good behaviour of the crowd on the day was perhaps to thank for their being no fatalities, but 1000 people did suffer some injuries.
The importance of this moment is in itself - the sheer amount of spectators shows us the popularity of football and its influence on the masses. Like nothing else in society, the beautiful game offered identity and allegiance. It is a notion which is still seen today as thousands pour into stadia around the world. On the other hand, the attendance and the inability of organizers to let only ticket holders in, prompted parliamentary debate on the issue. Matthew Taylor writes that although discussed - little was actually done. For Taylor, the game was not deemed worthy enough for government regulation unlike other cultural pastimes, the music hall and theatre. It is a negligence which we will not see the last of in this series.
13. The First FIFA World Cup (1930)
In the modern game there is an event every four years which gets each and every football fan excited...The FIFA World Cup. In 1930, the tournament was born - being played in Uruguay and seeing 13 nations competing. Perhaps what is most perplexing when looking into the first countries to participate is the lack of the home nations. It is no secret that England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland were the first international sides - so why weren't they in Uruguay?
Following its success in covering the United Kingdom - football's next biggest players were in South America. The game had reached the height of popularity across the Atlantic and by 1916 Comnebol (South American Football's Governing Body) was established. The success of the 1924 and 1928 Olympic football tournaments led to a FIFA meeting to discuss the chance of a world championships. In 1930 - this vision became reality.
Alongside 9 teams from the Americas, four European nations also accepted an invitation to compete. FIFA, by 1930 had grown considerably but faced doubt over its future due to the animosity between nations following the First World War. The home nations had withdrawn from the organisation and although invited to take part, cited the long travel distances and an unwillingness to play against war time enemies as a reason not to travel to Uruguay.
The tournament was a huge success. Uruguay won the inaugural crown after defeating neighbours Argentina 4-2 in the final. 68,000 spectators watched the match which showed football's immense power and influence around the globe. Success meant the tournament would continue every four years - starting in Italy in 1934. To this day, it remains the world's most watched and celebrated spectacle - providing us with some of sport's most memorable moments.
14. The First Televised Football Match (1937)
Today, football and television go hand-in-hand. It is a relationship which causes controversy and debate but in 1937 the first televised match would truly change to game forever. At Arsenal's Highbury Stadium it was of course broadcast by the BBC. Founded in 1926 as a radio service - the advances in motion picture and 'talkies' in Hollywood - meant television was the next step for the public broadcaster.
Football, as we have seen, already had a huge following. Spectator figures continued to rise and fanbases began to stretch wider than just local supporters. The first match to be televised was between Arsenal and Arsenal Reserves. It had been specially arranged for the occasion. Unfortunately for anyone watching - bad light affected the coverage as rain and dark clouds loomed overhead. Despite a lack of newspaper coverage - the match's importance is undoubted. Historian Richard Haynes notes how the experiment helped to enthuse the curiosity of many. The following year saw more coverage of football matches and the rest they say...is history!
For many, this will be one of the most relevant moments in our top 50 list. Today, it is common to see the news dominated by football and television rights. It is possible now to watch football all day if we wanted on a multitude of channels as the commercialisation of the game continues. What needs reminding though is in 1937 the beauty of the game was truly captured and taken to the hearts of those who watched it - let's hope that feeling returns.
15. Superga Air Disaster (1949)
Our final moment in this piece is one of tragedy. Despite being less than 100 years old - the game had seen many beautiful moments but in 1949 - it was see one of its darkest. Italian football had grown into one of the sport's most celebrated forms of the game. Following their two World Cup victories, the nation boasted some of the games finest players. In the 1930s, Giuseppe Meazza had been the star of the show, before a new star featured in the 40s. - Valentino Mazzola.
Mazzola was playing for Northern Italian giants Torino. Due to their superiority in domestic competition they became known as the 'Grande Torino. Winning 5 league championships and a Coppa Italia - they became the dominate team on the continent. What was more impressive was their early success despite the ongoing Second World War. Even when the nation was split following the US led invasion of the south the team continued - with superstars continuing to emerge.
In May 1949, following a friendly match in Lisbon against Portuguese side Benfica, the side and coaching staff set off for Turin by plane. Poor visibility and a malfunction altimeter meant the plane would struggle to see through the weather. Out of nowhere, the Superga Basilica, sat on top of a hill, appeared in front of the pilots who had no time to react. The resulting crash claimed the lives of all 31 people on board. A squad was killed and a footballing superpower was stopped tragically in their prime.
The crash sent shockwaves around the footballing world. The Italian national team would take years to recover and would travel by ship to the 1950 World Cup. One million people attended the funeral for the players as a city mourned its heroes.
Enjoy? Check out the previous ten moments in our Top 50 Most Important Moments in Football History...