England will unite with the USA team by wearing teal armbands at Wembley to show “solidarity with sexual abuse victims”, writes Um-E-Aymen Babar.
England are set to join the USA team by wearing teal armbands at Wembley tomorrow night to “stand in solidarity with sexual abuse victims” in the wake of the devastating National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) abuse report.
At the pre-match press conference earlier today, Beth Mead had revealed the Lionesses were planning a public show of support for the United States National Women’s Team (USWNT) after the publication of the dossier detailing the “systematic” abuse and sexual misconduct in women’s soccer.
England manager Sarina Wiegman and Player of the Year Mead spoke of their horror at the findings of the independent investigation.
They also expressed their hopes that the Sally Yates report will lead to “women being taken seriously” when speaking out about abuse and that they had discussed displaying their support for the USA team.
Wiegman said: “My first reaction is that’s horrible, unacceptable. I feel very sorry for all the victims and it should stop immediately, of course. I think it’s a worldwide problem still. I think it’s time we will step up and stop these things.”
Mead also showed her support, and added: “I was quite sickened when I found out. It’s a worldwide problem. Women need to be taken seriously a lot more. Proud of the victims that stood up. People need to start doing better.
“We’re in contact with the American team and some of the players. We’re working on something to show our support for them.”
The horrifying report sheds light on alleged misconduct and repeated failure by USA officials to heed warnings and complaints from players.
The summary of the report says: “Our investigation has revealed a league in which abuse and misconduct — verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct — had become systemic, spanning multiple teams, coaches, and victims.”
As the women’s football community rallies round the USA, Millie Bright will lead the Lionesses out to send a strong message of sisterhood at Wembley in the absence of captain Leah Williamson, who suffered an injury during the training camp and has returned to Arsenal for her rehabilitation.Embed from Getty Images
England will return to a sold-out stadium for the first time since their Euro 2022 summer fairytale, where they beat Germany 2-1 in extra time to claim the European Championship trophy for the first time in history. Fuelled by this triumphant summer and returning to their glory ground, the Lionesses will be more confident when facing the defending champions, USA.
Back in 2019, England’s dreams of reaching their first World Cup final were broken as Steph Houghton’s late penalty was saved in Lyon. The Americans beat England 2-1 in a dramatic semi-final loss and went on to claim the title of world champions for the fourth time. It was Jill Ellis who led her women to victory back then, but now Vlatko Andonovski will attempt to get the better of England boss Wiegman.
Speaking on the 2019 semi-final heartbreak, Mead said: “It was a tough result to take. We took it hard but it’s made us more hungry and motivated to prove ourselves against a world class America team.”
The star striker’s hoping to round off a successful week after saying she was “super proud” to be named England’s Player of the Year on Thursday ahead of Williamson and Keira Walsh respectively. The accolade not only adds to her winner’s medal, but Euros Golden Boot gong and European Player of the Tournament award by Uefa.
The Lionesses squad has had many changes since the summer. Earlier this year Ellen White and Jill Scott announced their retirement from football, and they’ve also been hit with injuries to some of the most crucial players.
Arsenal defender Lucy Parker was forced to withdraw from the squad due to injury alongside Williamson. Striker Alessia Russo, who scored one of the most memorable nutmegs in women’s footballing history, also pulled out of the squad due to an injury. These are big blows to the England side as all these women played an indispensable role in securing hometown glory.
Williamson’s fellow Arsenal defender Lotte Wubben-Moy and Russo’s Manchester United team-mate Nikita Parris have been called up as replacements, ahead of the international friendly. This will however prove to be a good test for the adaptability of the squad ahead of the World Cup as Wiegman used the same starting XI during the Euros.
As for the women’s USA team, Crystal Dunn will be making a reappearance less than five months after giving birth to her first child. Dunn played in London when she joined WSL champions Chelsea in 2017 but returned to North Carolina a year later after fearing it could affect her chances playing for her national team.Embed from Getty Images
Also making an appearance will be 22-year-old Sophia Smith having scored 21 goals for Portland Thorns in just two seasons. She was one goal away from winning the NWSL Golden Boot which was awarded to Alex Morgan, who has been ruled out of the friendly. Also with the Americans is two-time World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe, one of the biggest names in the USWNT squad.
While this game is a friendly, the stakes are high as the Lionesses will be wanting to retain their winning streak. Neither side has lost a game this calendar year. USA have also recently won the CONCACAF Championship and will be coming onto the ground with winning momentum. Both teams have their eyes set on the 2023 Fifa World Cup around the corner.
USA have managed to win 16 of their last 18 matches against England in all competitions, only drawing a black in July 1988 with a 2-0 and in March 2017 with a 1-0 loss.
The competition will be fierce, and the crowd will be electric. Both teams will be wanting to leave their mark, but which team will manage to find the back of the net more?
Follow Um-E-Aymen Babar on Twitter @ItsUmeAymen