LONDON — For more than 50 years, English football fans have been hoping, praying and singing that a major trophy would “come home”. Now it finally does. And they can hardly contain themselves.
Thousands of fans shouted and chanted in central London’s Trafalgar Square on Sunday and at other viewing parties across the country, where the European Women’s Championship final was shown on the big screen.
Photos of the Lionesses, as the team are known, dominated the front pages of British newspapers on Monday after their 2-1 win over Germany at Wembley Stadium in London, with headlines calling them ‘game changers’ or “history makers” and declaring “No more years of suffering”.
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 FIFA Cup. men’s world and that his team beat Germany in the final.
But the success had the potential to go beyond national pride and euphoria, with women’s football occupying the public consciousness in Britain like never before.
“I think we’ve really changed,” the team’s Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman told a post-match press conference. The team did a lot for the sport, but also for the role of women in society, she added, a sentiment that was echoed by others.
“It was an amazing month and an amazing day yesterday,” said Mark Bullingham, chief executive of the Football Association, England’s football governing body.
“I think it’s going to really boost everything we’ve done in women’s football,” he said in a statement. interview on “BBC Breakfast” on Monday, adding that the organization had invested heavily in women’s football over the past few years.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have the same number of girls as boys and we believe this will create a whole new generation of heroes that girls aspire to be like,” he said.
There is certainly room for improvement. A March report by ‘Fair Game’, a collective of 34 English football clubs, found that a gaping gender divide at football clubs across England and Wales was keeping the sport ‘alive’. in the dark ages”.
Only 11.1% of Premier League club board members are women, and two-thirds of league teams have all-male boards, according to the report. Far fewer women attended matches in England compared to other countries.
“This is at a time when public attitudes towards sexism and misogyny are changing, and football needs to change too,” said Stacey Pope, author of the report.
The change seemed possible as the Lionesses emerged victorious on Sunday from a match attended by a record number of fans – the crowd of over 87,000 was the largest at any European Championship final, men or women .
Queen Elizabeth sent a message of congratulations to the team, writing that while the athletes’ performances deserved praise, “your success goes far beyond the trophy you so deserved”.
“You all set an example that will inspire girls and women today and generations to come,” she wrote.
Kevin Windsor, a graphic designer in London, watched the game with his 3-year-old daughter, who wore a princess dress. “My daughter doesn’t have to be interested in football. She just needs to know it’s an option,” he wrote on Twitter. “That she can become whatever she cares about. From a princess to a lioness. And all the rest.