The next step? Funding women and girls in sport
BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGES VIA @LIONESSES ON INSTAGRAM
It came home! Last night, England’s Lionesses became European champions, winning the Euros 2022 final against Germany with a 2-1 victory. A nail-biting 120 minutes, a few sets of extra time were added on to account for the resting score of 1-1.
The first half was relatively tense, with possession marking a nervous 50/50. No goals were scored by either side, but England established a strong position in pushing Germany back from gaining a lead. Mary Earps saved a number of goals from the opposing team, holding onto the ball and keeping it safe and ready for England’s final victory.
The second half was when things started to hot up, with Ella Toone scoring the first goal. England held onto a 1-0 lead as Germany struggled to score, but 18 minutes from the end of the 90 minutes Lina Magull succeeded in bringing it to 1-1. A tense chase followed as much of the country anticipated the game going to penalties, a fate which can be devastating. The men’s team experienced this at the UEFA EURO 2020 held in July 2021, with Italy securing a 3-2 victory after the match went to a penalty shoot-out.
And then, ten minutes from the end of extra time, Chloe Kelly hit it into the net. A glorious moment in English football history, England fans across the country knew they had it in the bag from that moment forward. They just needed to stop Germany from scoring a goal, and they managed to do that by keeping the ball down their side of pitch. Germany attempted to score a few corner kicks, but England didn’t budge. We had it.
Amazingly, Chloe Kelly was out for much of the season with an ACL injury and endured an intense rehabilitation process to join her teammates at the women’s Euros. It comes as little surprise that her reaction to scoring was to rip her shirt off and majestically run across the pitch in her sports bra to celebrate with her teammates. At the end of the match, she ran off mid-BBC interview to sing Sweet Caroline with the rest of the Lionesses, a moment which has since been laughed about online.
“Thank you to every single person who came out to support us. This is unreal. This is what dreams are made of. As a young girl watching women’s football and now this, wow., it’s unbelievable”, she expressed. “Thank you to everyone who played part in my rehab, because I always believed I could be here, but to score the winner…wow. These girls are special, the manager is special and what a special group of staff.”
Beth Mead secured the race towards the Golden Boot, named the tournament’s best player after netting in six goals and facilitating five assists. One of the greatest moments of the game was Jill Scott’s altercation with Germany’s Sydney Lohmann, in which she was filmed shouting “fuck off you fucking prick”. The BBC played it back in slow motion, apologising to any lip readers that managed to decipher Jill’s words. Attesting to the heat and passion during this point in the match, fans have joked that Jill Scott – who is the only remaining England player to have competed against Germany in the 2009 final – is deserving of yet another MBE.
There’s since been a little bit of noise about Jill Scott’s decision to swear with Twitter opponents arguing that this doesn’t represent “role model behaviour”, but Jill Scott has made history with the rest of the Lionesses. She’s challenged reigning perceptions of women in sport, doing away with the “women shouldn’t swear” trope. And she’s an out lesbian, the visibility of which doesn’t go amiss. We were all Jill Scott at that moment really, weren’t we?
“I think what happened yesterday was much broader than football”, Baroness Sue Campbell – the FA’s Director of Women’s Football – told BBC News. “I think it will change the perception of women in sport generally, and I hope give women and girls real optimism that if they want to do something in life, whatever it is, if they work at it, they’re going to achieve it. I think we’ve inspired a nation here.” Jill Scott reinforced that this victory belongs to her predecessors as much as it does the current team: the original 1972 Lionesses paved the way, fighting for the inclusion and recognition of women’s football not just by football fans and wider society but by the FA.
What England have done here cannot be understated. The Lionesses have brought home the first major tournament title for England since 1966, a time when women were banned from competing. 87,000 people turned out to watch at Wembley and 17.4 million tuned in to watch, breaking records for women’s football matches in the UK. It came home, and the women brought it home. That’s one for the history books.
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