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From Canton to Helsinki, Made in Ada footballs featured in women's games

This summer the Pro Football Hall of Fame created a "Women's Impact on Football" exhibit. The Icon asked Russ Crawford, Professor of History at Ohio Northern University and womens' football expert, for some context. 

By Russ Crawford

One usually thinks of men playing NFL or college football as the carriers of footballs made in Ada. However, this summer women played using Wilson footballs across the country and internationally.

Domestic Leagues
In late June, both the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA), and the Women’s National Football Conference (WNFC) held their regular seasons from April to July. The WFA had 61 teams playing this year, spread from Miami to Portland, and included the Columbus Chaos and the Cincinnati Sizzle from Ohio. The WNFC had sixteen teams, mostly in the western and southwest. Both leagues use the Wilson ball. 

The WFA held their championship weekend at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium Across the street from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Boston Renegades won their fourth straight Pro Division championship by defeating the Minnesota Vixen 32-12. The Mile High Blaze won Division after topping the Derby City Dynamite 21-20. The Oklahoma City Lady Force bested the Capital City (Lansing) Savages 25-0. 

The Texas Elite Spartans won their third straight WNFC crown by overcoming the Utah Falconz 48-12 in a game played at Ford Center at the Star in Frisco, Texas, on the northern edge of Dallas.

The World Games
From July 10 to 14, women from eight countries – Mexico, Austria, Brazil, Panama, Japan, France, Italy, and defending world champion USA – played flag football for the first time in the World Games that were held at Legion Field in Birmingham, AL. The NFL helped sponsor the flag portion of the games, and so all teams used the Wilson ball.

Although Team USA was the favorite to win the inaugural World Games flag football championship, Team Mexico had other ideas. The Mexicans shocked the flag football world by dominating the Americans 39-6.

International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championship
In Late July and early August, the top eight women’s tackle football teams traveled to Vantaa, Finland–just outside Helsinki–to compete for the world championship. Once again Team USA, which had won all three previous IFAF tournaments, was favored to win against teams from Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Mexico and Sweden. 

This time the Americans did not disappoint. They defeated Team Great Britain 42-14 behind the passing of Brittany Bushman (Texas Elite Spartans WNFC), and the rushing of DAjah Scott (DC Divas WFA).

In this world championship, it was the Canadians who were on the wrong end of a surprising upset. The British shocked the team that had finished second in the previous WWCs by scoring touchdowns with time running out in both halves, and came away with the 20-13 victory.

Canada fell to fourth place when Team Finland took the bronze medal on the strength of a rushing attack led by Tytti Kuusinen (Boston Renegades WFA) and Mari Jääskelä (Helsinki Wolverines) carried the Wilson for a combined 205 yards to win 19-17.

Team Mexico and Team Germany finished in 5th and 6th place, respectively. Mexico had won the bronze medal in 2017, but travel delays prevented them from playing their first scheduled game, so they finished out of the top four. The Mexicans defeated the Australians 34-6 and Germans 28-0 to salvage what they could.

The tournament was rounded out when Team Australia won their first international match by defeating Team Sweden 7-0.

If you are interested in reading game stories for the WFA championship and the IFAF WWC, my game stories for American Football International can be found HERE. The University of Nebraska Press will publish my new book Women’s American Football: Breaking Barriers On and Off the Field in November.