When the final whistle blew to mark the Lionesses as champions of Europe, a strong wave of emotion came over me. I have grown up watching and supporting the women’s game, which began with searching for matches on the red button channel, posting about games on social media to raise awareness and only being able to celebrate the successes with the small amount of people that showed an interest.
Therefore, I couldn’t quite grasp the fact that as the England Women’s team jumped in the air when the trophy was lifted, I was not one of the few celebrating with them, I was one of the many. After 56 years, regardless of gender, the Lionesses had finally brought home a major trophy for an England senior football team. That was a statement that could not be ignored by anyone.
Sport can be seen as a mirror for society, and the success and support of this team shows how far we have come since women were banned from playing football in 1912. It is another step towards equality."Phoebe Head, President of Women’s Football at the University of Birmingham
This means so much for football and the game, but it is also so much bigger than football. As the captain, Leah Williamson, said, ‘the legacy of this tournament is a change in society’. Sport can be seen as a mirror for society, and the success and support of this team shows how far we have come since women were banned from playing football in 1912. It is another step towards equality. However, it really is just the beginning.
After the win, the Lionesses wrote a letter to Conservative Party candidates, calling for real change to occur for the next generation of girls. They stated that currently ‘only 63% of girls can play football in PE lessons. In my personal experience, I was fortunate enough to play football in primary school. On the other hand, when my journey started at age 5, walking into an after-school football club full of boys, I was the only girl. It is commonly said that you’re fearless when you’re young, and I believe that I was fearless walking onto that pitch for the first time. However, girls should be able to walk out together and feel represented. They should be able to walk out on to a football pitch with pride, knowing that this could be a potential future career for them one day. Gender shouldn’t be important, love of sport should be.
Despite barriers that I came across and discrimination in different forms, I carried on playing football for the love of the sport. I went from boys’ teams to women’s academy teams to now being the president of Women’s Football at Birmingham. I believe it is such an honour to be in this role, to help the club and the sport grow- giving girls of all abilities the opportunity to play and to create a community. I am now surrounded by four teams of talented women instead of being alone. I personally feel extremely inspired by the Lionesses, to keep striving to be the best player I can, but also to help others reach their potential. This victory has sent shock waves across the nation and the world, and I am certain that we will have a flood of new people in the club next year, and in clubs across the country.
The morning after the Lionesses won the 2022 Euros, photographs of their celebrations were printed on the front page of every newspaper. This momentum cannot die down and be forgotten the next week. Every member of that squad is a role model to everyone, regardless of age or gender. Change is definitely coming.
Phoebe Head, President of Women’s Football - University of Birmingham