England’s Lionesses might not have brought the Women’s World Cup trophy home this year, but they certainly won football fans’ hearts.
Women have dominated professional sports this summer.
From teen tennis star Coco Gauff defeating five-time champion Venus Williams at Wimbledon, to England’s Lionesses roaring through to the Women’s World Cup semi-finals in Lyon – women are closing the disparities between male and female games with determination, passion and talent.
Sure, it was tough watching the US beat England in that quarter-final match, but the fact that the game brought in a record number of TV viewers in the UK was a huge feat in itself.
“I think the figures show that a lot of people are interested,” says Lioness forward player Nikita Parris. “It’s just about having the accessibility and the ability to be able to click on the TV and go to BBC One and there’s the game.”
The Lionesses have undoubtedly put women’s football well and truly on the map. But the battle to get there hasn’t been easy. Ahead of the tournament, players Alex Greenwood and Fran Kirby also spoke to Stylist about the barriers female footballers face – citing the lack of initiatives and funding.
While Parris argues that the FA are in fact making progress in levelling out the playing field, she agrees that it does need to work harder at being more inclusive globally.
“Opportunities for young girls, like young boys, to go into academies from a young age does happen now in England, but it doesn’t happen globally,” she explains. “Because obviously you have seen the disparities within football around the world, like with Thailand when they played USA.
“These disparities can be closed by allowing young girls from a very young age to be able to participate in football and see a future [in the sport].”
The power of the Lionesses’ performance at the World Cup has already had an effect on young girls looking to get involved with the great game.
“Even now I get text messages saying, ‘My daughter took up football, she’s playing at the local centre and is trying out in football teams’,” says Parris. “It’s just amazing because ultimately even though we didn’t win we have changed a lot for young girls in England.”
Parris, who made a video diary of her personal World Cup journey for a project with Huawei, recalled her favourite moment being the goal she scored against Scotland in their opening match.
“I think just to be able to capture that moment happening, when we were celebrating in the changing room and celebrating that I won player of the match,” she says. “It was my first ever World Cup game and it’s very hard to put into words.”
Watch Nikita’s video diary of the Women’s World Cup
Summing up the real successes of the squad’s time in the tournament, Parris adds: “It’s kind of hard to explain because obviously we went out with the chance to win and ultimately, we never did.
“But we changed the perception of women’s football along the way, especially within England. The amount of people that have interacted with us as individuals and us as a team and with women’s football in general is just unreal.”
That sounds like winning talk to us.
Parris made her video diaries using her Huawei device as part of a brand partnership.