Think that this year’s the first time that England has reached the finals of an international football competition since 1966? Think again – we were in the 2009 Euro final.
England’s through to the finals of Euro 2020, and quite rightly, the whole nation is beside itself with excitement. Never has a win been more needed than after the past 18 months; Gareth Southgate’s team has managed to help us forget – however fleetingly – about Covid-19 and all the other heavy issues that have dominated life recently.
But if you think that this is the first time that football’s been coming home since 1966, you’d be mistaken. England actually reached the finals of Euro 2009 – it’s just that it was the women’s team who got us there.
Under Arsenal legend Faye White’s leadership, our women stormed to the finals of the UEFA Women’s Euro in Finland, eventually losing to Germany. That competition was the first time England had reached a final since 1984, when we lost to Sweden on penalties.
In fact, England women’s (more recently known as the Lionesses) have been way more successful than the men’s teams at the Euros. The women have been both finalists and semi-finalists twice, compared to the men who have only reached the semi-finals once before, and are now facing their first final.
While you’d have to be a real doomster to dismiss the importance of last night’s achievement (who doesn’t want to see Gareth finally putting old 1996 demons to rest by lifting the cup?), it does beg the question: why don’t we celebrate women’s footballing successes as much as men’s?
The Lionesses are a seriously impressive crop of players, with the likes of Lucy Bronze inspiring girls all over the world to get stuck into the game. She led her team to win the SheBelieves Cup over in the US in 2019, and scored during the 3-0 victory over Norway in the quarter-finals of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Why don’t we hear more about players like her, alongside national heroes like Kane and Sterling?
The FA Women’s Super League was only made fully professional back in 2018, with 200 players receiving full-time pay for the first time. That means that many of our players were juggling part-time jobs while playing for their clubs and country. The idea that so many lived such normal and probably quite hectic lives for so long – compared with their male peers – is pretty wild, if not inspiring.
When it comes to international football, there’s no need to pick a gender to support but when we have such a brilliant women’s team – which has a proven record of success – one might hope that this kind of football fervour will translate to offering them more support for their future tournaments.
For more news, workout ideas and healthy recipes, follow Strong Women on Instagram (@StrongWomenUK).
Miranda Larbi is the editor of Strong Women and Strong Women Training Club. A qualified personal trainer and vegan runner, she can usually be found training for the next marathon, seeking out vegan treats or cycling across London on a pond-green Tokyo bike.
Recommended by Miranda Larbi
This girls’ football team joined a boys’ league – and won it
Women’s football team flies economy while men’s squad sits business class
Hijab-wearing players finally have a future in football, thanks to Sisterhood FC
People are STILL surprised that women can be professional footballers in 2019