People & Values

Barbara and Michele Cox are trailblazers in New Zealand football

Barbara and Michele Cox are trailblazers in Aotearoa New Zealand football. They made history by becoming the first mother and daughter in the world to play together in an international football game, including teaming up in defence for New Zealand’s only victory over the United States.

Barbara is a pioneer of women’s football in Aotearoa. In 1973, she became one of the first women in the country to join a football team when her husband, Roy, helped create the first women’s team in Auckland.

Despite her initial lack of knowledge about the game, Barbara quickly developed a deep passion for the sport. Just two years after playing her first match, she achieved an extraordinary milestone by captaining the New Zealand women’s team to victory at the 1975 Asian Cup tournament. This achievement not only brought recognition to women’s football, but also ignited the nation’s interest in the sport.

Football talent runs deep in the Cox family, with Barbara’s daughters Michele and Tara also representing New Zealand on the world stage Michele, in particular, left an indelible mark on the sport. She played for the Football Ferns for 11 years and is widely regarded as one of the country’s football greats.

In 1987, Barbara and Michele played alongside each other at the World Invitational Tournament in Taiwan, an event which would etch their names into football history.

The pair created a record for being the first-ever mother-daughter combination to play together in a national team. It was during this tournament that New Zealand achieved a remarkable victory over the United States.

Barbara retired at age 40, but her passion for football wasn’t limited to playing it. She wanted to coach, and her persistence saw her become the first woman in New Zealand to attain the top football coaching certificate. For the next two decades, she shared her knowledge and expertise of the sport, coaching teams of all ages nationwide.

Following Michele’s career on the field, she moved into sports administration, holding roles at FIFA, UEFA, New Zealand Football, New Zealand Cricket, and Hockey New Zealand. She worked closely with Prince Ali bin El Hussain of Jordan, spearheading his foundation’s efforts to expand the game in Asia and playing a crucial role in promoting inclusivity and diversity in the sport, helping to overturn the ban on Muslim women wearing hijab on the football pitch.

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