We’ve heard what the Lionesses have had to say about their first major tournament win on home soil — now here’s what it means to their loyal supporters… By Ruby Malone.
Chloe Kelly running down the touchline towards the England dugout, whirling her Lionesses’ shirt in the air is an image of pure elation. And the mood outside Wembley Stadium after the historic Euro 2022 final last night was equally euphoric – the iconic arch lit up red, providing the perfect backdrop for England’s pride.
Sarina Wiegman’s side beat eight-time winners Germany 2-1 (AET) on home soil and lifted the coveted trophy in front of a sold-out Wembley. It’s the Lionesses’ first major tournament win and the first major trophy for any England senior team since the men won the World Cup in 1966. The Sixties – only just over 50 years ago, but when women were still banned from using any FA-associated facilities. Let that sink in.
The formidable German side did not make it easy for England at all. They made the physical battle a seriously tough one, came out raring after half-time and utilised their star midfielders, Lena Oberdorf and Lina Magull. But the 12th woman at Wembley proved their worth and the Lionesses were spurred on by 87,192 supporters – the biggest crowd in the history of a men’s or women’s Euros.
The players certainly got their support roaring, with great chances in the opening 45 minutes and goals from Ella Toone in the second half and Kelly in the 20th minute of extra time. The atmosphere and vibe in the stadium felt even more special after the full-time whistle had blown, however. Families, couples, friends and team-mates stayed to watch history as the Lionesses lifted the trophy and celebrated their much-deserved victory. You could almost feel all the emotions mixing in the air around as people danced, cried, sang and swayed to the music.
I got the chance to speak to some of these jubilant England fans after the game. The initial reactions were of course of pure awe and exhilaration.
Abi Bloy and Alex Hinks Roberts, below right, said: “I thought we had it in the first half and then it got really intense when they came back on… but then it was just incredible again! We both absolutely lost it when Kelly scored the second goal.”
Meg Harding, below left with friends in the blue away shirt, followed this up with a simple but sweet: “I’m buzzing. It was just class! Going to be celebrating the win big tonight!”
In every interview however, the conversation quickly turned to the impact this massive win is going to have on the women’s game in this country.
Jamie-Lee Bamford played football herself – even receiving a scholarship to play in America – and spoke eloquently on the topic.
She said: “When I was younger, I played with the boys. I’m 22 and I didn’t have this growing up… there was women’s football but it was nowhere near as big as this. I hope that all these young girls and families who are here today are so inspired, and some of the girls will go and hopefully one day represent the Lionesses.”
“They’ve already increased the winnings for the Women’s FA Cup – I really hope they keep throwing money at it, because it really is incredible. It was amazing but at the same time so emotional… and then nerves too because we still had minutes left to play. It was just incredible – the atmosphere was insane!”
I also met a group who were at the game with their local girls’ team, Broomfield Football Club. Two of the girls play at the club and spoke about how inspirational it was to see women on the big stage. They believe that it could be them one day.
Their coach said: “It’s amazing what they’re doing for girls of all ages. This just shows that it should be equal for boys and girls. Girls should be able to play it in school and have the same opportunities as the boys. Because this shows they can do exactly what the men do, if not better!
“I love men’s football too, but the quality of football the women are playing, to me, is far better than the men. They’re keeping it simple and it’s just really good football.
One of the young girls swiftly added to this: “There’s much less rolling around too!”
Jen Purbrook and Megan Scott, together below, had only just left the stadium when I met them, almost two hours after the full-time whistle had blown.
Megan said: “The atmosphere was just amazing, just so, so good. We’ve been waiting for this! We both play and we’ve been following the Lionesses for so long. It’s just incredible how big it’s become and how everyone’s got behind the team today. We brought it home, what can we say?”
When I replied: “And it was the women who did it!”, Jen followed this up joking, “What do they say, women always do it better, eh?!”
She continued: “Now young girls are going to have something amazing to look up to. When I was younger, I played on a boys’ team and it was just ‘you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough’ and now we’re here, everyone can see that we actually are.”
Follow Ruby on Twitter @RubyGMalone