The river of silver confetti may have been cleared away, but let’s cast our minds back one more time to Sunday 31 July 2022 – the day that football finally came home. Having been lucky enough to secure a ticket (a birthday gift that’s unlikely to ever be topped), it was an absolute joy to join another 87,000+ fans roaring on our Lionesses to a historic victory at Wembley. I won’t pretend the final thirty tense minutes of extra time were that enjoyable but seeing this fearless group of women lift the trophy made it all worth it. Since Sunday night’s celebrations (and Monday morning’s hangover) I’ve heard and read lots about what this tournament means for the future of women’s football, but here are my reflections on what I’ll take away from the experience of Euro ‘22.
You need to see it to be it – One of the nicest things about Sunday, and every other game of this tournament, was seeing so many young girls attending with their families to watch their heroes play. The current spotlight on strong female role models in sport can only be a good thing for our younger generations. Whether a member of the winning England football team, their fantastic coach Serina Wiegman, or the female-led team of BBC presenters and commentators (for my money, Alex Scott is easily the most knowledgeable pundit we have), the more girls are able to see women succeeding in sport like this, the more inspired they will hopefully be to follow in their footsteps.
You can’t achieve success without investing in talent – The profile of English women’s professional football may have skyrocketed through this tournament and the emergence of the Women’s Super League (WSL), but it would be wrong to say that the lack of attention so far had anything to do with a lack of ability or determination. Hearing about some of the challenges players had to overcome when pursuing their interest in football, such as not having a team to play for when growing up, or working multiple jobs to support themselves through training, it’s clear that ongoing support and investment at every level are key to securing the legacy of Euro 2022. The talent and tenacity to win can be there, but without investment in coaching, facilities and competitive wages, individuals cannot be expected to reach their full potential.
Don’t be held back by past defeats – Those of us old enough to remember when Three Lions first hit the charts will be all too familiar with the highs and lows of supporting our national men’s football side in recent years. On the flipside, it’s been fantastic to watch the current England women’s team play with real flair and freedom, seemingly not weighed down by the ghosts of tournaments past. Back in 2019, many of the current side faced the heartbreak of losing out to the USA in the semi-finals of the women’s World Cup, but by managing to go all the way this time they’ve shown there is a way to overcome the fear of defeat. It was also really lovely to see members of the England men’s squad cheering on their counterparts – who knows, seeing the women’s side win may inspire them to go all the way at the next men’s World Cup?
Congratulations to our Lionesses and be sure to support your local women’s teams. With sales for future WSL games already soaring – the Arsenal website apparently crashed following Sunday’s final due to overwhelming demand for the upcoming women’s North London derby against Spurs – it’s to be hoped the future of the women’s game is looking bright.
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