LONDON. For over 50 years, English football fans have hoped, prayed and chanted that the ultimate trophy would “come home”. Now, finally, there is. And they can hardly contain themselves.
On Monday, photos of the Lionesses, as the team is known, subsequently dominated the front pages of British newspapers. their 2-1 victory over Germany at London’s Wembley Stadium, headlines praise the new European champions as “game changers” or “history makers” and proclaim: “No more years of pain.”
Trafalgar Square, where a huge observation deck had taken place the previous day, became the scene of even more jubilation as thousands of people turned up for the trophy-raising ceremony along with the crew.
Many fans arrived wearing team shirts, carrying England flags and singing:three lions” – a song whose chorus “football is coming home” became an expression of the desire of English fans for a trophy – by heart when the team took the stage.
“We said we wanted to keep the legacy of winning, and we did,” said team captain Lea Williamson, hearing a standing ovation from the crowd.
“We have been a game changer in this country and hopefully in Europe and around the world,” she said.
The crowd included families and dozens of young girls with hashtag stickers. #LetGirlsPlaytrumpeting their desire for a future in a sport that for decades banned their participation and still doesn’t offer equal opportunity despite recent improvements.
“It’s so exciting for a young woman who grew up playing football, seeing them soar so high,” Savannah Xanthe said. The 18-year-old who came to the ceremony wearing the English flag along with her two sisters.
“Women don’t get a chance to be taken seriously in football,” says Amy Symonds, 33, who plays football in Bristol. She said she was trembling with excitement while watching yesterday’s match. “It shows what we can do and it needs to be taken seriously.”
She added that she hopes the victory will bring the sport the attention it deserves.
“This is the beginning, not the end,” she said.
Politicians and members of the royal family have sent messages and congratulations to the team on their victory – a dramatic conclusion with parallels to England’s last major championship in 1966, when the country hosted the Men’s World Cup and its team defeated Germany in the final.
But the success could have gone beyond national pride and euphoria as women’s football occupied the public consciousness in the UK like never before.
More than 600,000 tickets were sold for the European Championship, more than twice the total for any previous edition of the women’s tournament and the final was the most watched television program in the UK that year, according to BBC. The broadcaster said the match was watched by a peak audience of 17.4 million, about a third of England’s population, and added that there were an additional 5.9 million broadcasts on the network.
“I think we’ve really made a change,” Dutch team coach Sarina Wigman said at a post-match press conference on Sunday. The team has done a lot for the sport, but also for the role of women in society, she added, a sentiment echoed by others.
“It was an amazing month and an amazing day yesterday,” said Mark Bullingham, chief executive of the Football Association, England’s governing body for football.
“I think it will really speed up everything we’ve been doing in women’s football,” he said in an interview. interview on BBC Breakfast on Monday, adding that the organization has invested heavily in women’s football over the past few years.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have as many girls playing as boys, and we think it will create a whole new generation of heroes that girls aspire to be like,” he said.
The recent shift, while significant, is long overdue for a sport that has a long tradition of discriminating against women. Leading English clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea have poured millions of dollars into their women’s programs in recent years, part of a broader European investment trend that has seen the continent close the gap with the United States. longtime world leader. in women’s football. This broad structural support is seen as vital to creating a system in which women can thrive.
But as things have changed over the past decade, experts say there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
“This is a time when public attitudes towards sexism and misogyny are changing and football must also change,” said Stacey Pope, head of Fair Play, an association of 34 English football clubs, which released a report in March that showed evidence of a gaping gender gap in football. clubs in England and Wales keeps the sport “in the dark ages”.
The report says that only 11.1 per cent of board members at Premier League clubs are women, while two-thirds of league teams have an all-male board. Significantly fewer women attended games in England compared to other countries.
But newfound optimism prevailed this weekend, with the Lionesses winning a match on Sunday that was attended by a record crowd of more than 87,000 spectators, the largest crowd for any European Championship final, men or women.
Queen Elizabeth sent a message of congratulations to the team, writing that while the athletes’ performances were to be commended, “your success goes far beyond the trophy you so deservedly earned.”
“You all set an example that will be an inspiration for girls and women today and for generations to come,” she wrote.
Kevin Windsor, a graphic designer from London, watched the match with his 3-year-old daughter, who was wearing a princess dress. “My daughter does not have to be interested in football. She just needs to know it’s an option” heh tweeted. “That she can be anything her little heart desires. From princess to lioness. And everything in between.”
Andrew Das made a report.