They want to inspire a nation. Well, one-half of a nation in particular.
Footballers aren’t usually great talkers. However, so far in the Women’s World Cup, the England heroines have been doing their talking on and off the pitch.
Firstly, some background: they are the first senior England side, men’s or women’s, to get to a World Cup semi-final since 1990. If they beat Japan on the 2nd July, they will be the first England team in the final since the men won in 1966. For a nation with the best domestic league in the world, but who are perennial underachievers internationally, this is pretty epic.
They play with a passion rarely seen in the England men’s team. They play for each other and with every post match interview, they talk about playing for every little girl out there watching in the stands and on the sofa – daring to dream that they might one day put on that England shirt.
They represent England with such pride, in the last game beating the hosts Canada 2-1 in front of 54,000 home fans, but they barely get 1,000 fans when they play for their clubs back home. They know that they are leading the revolution in Women’s football, and they are not doing it for themselves. They are taking their chance to inspire change for every young girl in England.
No longer might it seem strange for girls to be playing football with the boys in the playground. They would wear their England football shirts with pride – the names of Williams, Houghton, Taylor or Carney on the back. With childhood obesity an ever-present menace, these England football role models may be saving a few lives too.
Sometimes sport can be elevated to such a level that it inspires change in society.
The male half of the country is just as proud as the female half. A lot of the guys are starting to wonder why they derided women’s football in the first place. The goals have been as good, the games have been as exciting, the Germans have been winning the penalty shoot-outs…. Women are no different from the men.
The thing is, the women are already record breakers, but they want more. They don’t feel like they have “arrived” just because they have got through to the semi-final. They believe in themselves, they believe in each other, and they want to use their talents to their full ability. No glass ceilings, no “choking” under the weight of expectation – just a bunch of amazingly talented women doing their bit to make us all proud.
It is, however, a team effort. The manager and much of the management staff are male – they work together as a tight-knit team, and the girls do the business on the pitch. They do not insist on a woman coaching a women’s team, and that is the pragmatic nature of their success. Women won’t always get to the top on their own - there are plenty of guys out there who are more than happy to help them get there.
With all that is written about female equality, much of which I fully agree with, there are few more interesting journeys than women’s football. They are stepping into their power, on the world stage, making their dreams come true and inspiring the dreams of millions of others across the world.
When a little girl thinks: “I want to be like you,” you know that your job is done.
Image source –www.thefa.com