England’s Lionesses have set a new standard in women’s football, and we couldn’t be any prouder.
“They are still my heroes. What a team!” my brother wrote in a text to me, moments after the final whistle blew on the England vs USA World Cup semi-finals match on Tuesday (2 July). “They were amazing. And Steph Houghton is a hero,” he sent in a second message.
I showed them to my forlorn friend in the pub and we both smiled, nearly on the verge of tears, because those texts proved exactly what the game did for women in sports.
Yes, America beat England by 2-1. Yes, the semi-final knockout is an all-too-familiar ground for British sports teams. And yes, the highest the Lionesses can now be placed is third or fourth position.
But considering that my brother had been indifferent about the women’s tournament just a few weeks ago (let’s face it, along with many others), the fact that he became so invested that he now considers them “heroes” and “amazing” proves that the Lionesses achieved something incredible.
They made sure that the female game finally got the attention it deserves. People are sitting up, kicking themselves for not noticing before. And everyone is now fully behind supporting women in football.
In their quarter-finals match against Norway, the Lionesses brought in a record-breaking 7.6 million viewers. It was reported that Tuesday was the “busiest night of the year” for London pubs because of the game against USA. And the BBC have reported that the game attracted a record-breaking peak TV audience of 11.7 million and peak share of 50.8%, making it the most-watched television programme of the year so far.
The response on Twitter further reiterates how much the Lionesses have done for football this summer.
It’s also worth noting that they lost by just one goal to the best team in the world, in what was a damn exciting match to watch.
Speaking after the game, Lioness Ellen White said: ‘I’m going to cry. I’m devastated not to get to the final. All I feel is pride for my team-mates. USA had an amazing match and we just couldn’t match them. I’m proud to be English and I wish them all the best in the final.”
Before the tournament started, I spoke with Manchester United captain Alex Greenwood who said: “Ultimately, if a young girl feels confident enough so that she’ll pick a football up and play – then that’s job done in my opinion. It’s the start and the future of the Lionesses.”
I think we can all agree that her job is well and truly done. And now that the UK has woken up to the Lionesses’ roars, I’m confident that any girl who chooses to pursue a career in football will have full support from people around her. Surely, this is the true definition of bringing football home?