With the 2023 Women’s World Cup in headlines currently for all the wrong reasons, it seems prescient that the Toronto International Film Festival will open its programming with a documentary about a “World Cup that was erased from history.”
COPA 71 tells the story of the first, unofficial Women’s World Cup. Held in August of 1971 in Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, teams of women from England, Argentina, Mexico, France, Denmark, and Italy gathered to see who was the best in the world. Even though the event itself was historic and nabbed lavish sponsorships and extensive media coverage, its lack of recognition from soccer’s governing body meant its disappearance in sporting history.
Told by the women who participated, and executive produced by Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Alex Morgan, COPA 71 grounds the current upswell for women’s soccer in its oft-forgotten beginnings. In a new clip just released, the audience gets a taste of the environment women athletes dealt with, being considered either a joke or a sexy pair of legs by men in attendance. The glib commentary in the clip feels even more upsetting when looking at figures like Spanish Federation president Luis Rubiales, who still thinks its perfectly harmless to grab his crotch and kiss world-class athletes without their consent in front of millions.
COPA 71 is directed by Rachel Ramsay and James Erskine and written by Rachel Ramsay, James Erskine, and Victoria Gregory. The film premieres at TIFF on Thursday, September 7.