Lionesses Euro 2022 Win Can Be The Start Of A Glorious Future For England

This incredible achievement must be used to usher in a new era of opportunity for a generation of girls
20:30, 31 Jul 2022

50 years since the utterly spiteful and draconian ban on women playing football at English Football League grounds was lifted, England are European champions. After a 2-1 win over Germany in front of 87,192 fans at Wembley, this summer has felt like a true watershed moment. While the lifting of the ban in December 1971 was a course correction after 51 years of oppression, this victory feels like a crowning glory. But something both moments share is that they need to be a point of growth, part of the journey rather than its ultimate destination.

There is still work to do for England to build on the triumph of its incredible Lionesses. Former Arsenal and England star Ian Wright hit the nail squarely on the head earlier in the tournament, outlining the continued challenge the women’s game faces in the future. Speaking on the BBC after England’s 4-0 win over Sweden in the semi final, the ex-Gunner said, "Whatever happens in the final now, if girls are not allowed to play football just like the boys can in their P.E. after this tournament then what are we doing?".

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Wright, for want of a better word, is right. Football has been treated as a “boy’s sport” for far too long. Women’s football is not a “didn’t they do well?” novelty that should be patronised. Nor is it a ghetto that should be fenced off from the men’s game. Harry Kane plays football. Beth Mead plays football. Raheem Sterling plays football. Lucy Bronze plays football. It shouldn’t have taken the Lionesses winning English football’s first senior international tournament since 1966 for young female talent to receive equality of opportunity with their male counterparts. But you absolutely cannot deny them these opportunities any longer.

Right now, in living rooms across the country, sit thousands of little girls who want to become professional footballers. Boys too, who will have found watching their country win a major tournament deeply inspiring. Children tend not to have the same prejudices as adults and young boys will be far more likely to enjoy the triumph than the grade A whoppers who make the sort of “kitchen” jibes that should have died with Bernard Manning. 

To these kids, Chloe Kelly's goal will do what Paul Gascoigne’s Euro 96 banger against Scotland or David Beckham’s free kick against Greece did for us growing up. The key difference being, this superb England side of 2022 has lifted a major trophy.

You really cannot put a price on these sort of formative experiences and the difference they can make to the future of a sport. Amir Khan travelled to the Athens 2004 Olympics as the sole member of Great Britain’s boxing team. Khan won a silver medal and four years later, Team GB took home three medals boasting a team featuring three future world champions. At London 2012, Britain topped the boxing medal table with a team featuring future two-time world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. The boxers of 2008 and 2012 grew up watching the lone fighter of 2004. Khan’s success fed their success. 

Right now there will be kids who have seen their country’s greatest football triumph in 56 years dreaming of replicating it themselves. In the future some of these children will be the adults, male and female, on the field looking to deliver another major trophy. Whether they be Three Lions or Lionesses, there will be a major impact on a generation of football talent due to what we have seen today. Now we must make sure these potential stars are given the opportunity to reach that potential. Male or female, we must let these kids play football. As we have seen at Euro 2022, the possibilities are limitless.

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