We already know that what is important is to participate is a white lie. But, perhaps for once, the most important thing is not who won the final of the Women’s European Cup because this tournament was won by all. All the women. Even those from countries that didn’t even participate. And also men. Or a lot of men, because there will always be a group of diehards. A huge group just five or 10 years ago, which began to crumble at the 2019 World Cup at the hands of Megan Rapinoe and he is now fighting in retirement thanks to this European championship.
Women’s football, that is to say football, will never be the same again. Because the general public has discovered that women also run, they also combine, they also react tactically, control, temper, shoot, dribble (Oh, Athénée, how a man would like to haggle like you!), they also fight, argue, elbow each other and even put on a show if necessary. I mean, they also play football.
Perhaps this columnist is blinded by the euphoria with which England experienced the European Championship thanks to their beautiful attacking game at the hands of a Dutchwoman, Sarina Wiegman, who in 2017 made the Netherlands champions Europe and in 2019 took them to the World Cup. Cup final (lost to USA, 2-0). In September 2021, he took over the reins of England after the dismal three years of Phil Neville, during which the arrogance of the youngest of the Nevilles was more than the pedigree that the English Federation (FA) sought by settling on the women’s bench. a famous man.
According to critics, Wiegman had the wisdom to never point fingers at suspected culprits, to build team spirit, to always have tactical alternatives at hand, and to convey immense confidence to players, thus creating a team capable of withstanding pressure in defence, solid and combative in midfield and loose and creative in attack.
The success of this European Championship is measured on a symbolic level, but it is to be hoped that it will also have practical consequences. Few things are more symbolic than sending Liverpool and Manchester City to Leicester on Saturday to play the Charity Shield (the match that since time immemorial opens the football season) because this weekend Wembley was for women only. Or that the 20th anniversary of I want to be like Beckhama film which tough men regard as cutesy but which is seen here as a revolution because it claims not only the freedom of girls to play football but also football as a tool in the fight for gender and racial equality, the sexual identity, religious freedom and even family traditions.
There are more symbolisms. 101 years ago, the FA took the shameful decision to ban women from playing on its official grounds. During the First World War, with men in the French trenches and women suffering in the armaments factories, the doctors advised the workers to play sports to preserve their health. Many factories launched women’s football teams which met with unexpected popular success which continued after the war. On December 26, 1920, in the traditional match of the The day after Christmasmore than 53,000 people packed Goodison Park and another 14,000 stood at the gates to watch the St. Helens Ladies play the Dick, Kerr Ladies, in which 1.81m player Lily Parr, nicknamed The mule for the power of his blows. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back in the chauvinist panic of the FA.
A century later, the emergence of women’s football is unstoppable. The success of the European Championship will not only encourage millions of girls and young women to challenge their male peers in schools and public squares to share the ball. It will also trigger investment in a sport which in England was not fully professional until the 2018-19 season and in which neither clubs nor federations charged television rights beyond the token until last season. The numbers today are ridiculous compared to men’s football, but the race has already begun.
There are plenty of things to do. Some as simple as cleaning facilities, making it easier for ethnic minorities to attend training camps (the decline in the number of ethnic minority players in the England squad is alarming) or for new mums to take along their babies at matches and concentrations. An example: it is only since this year that professional players have the right to maternity leave and long illnesses. Until now, it depended on the goodwill of the clubs. It’s time to invest because the future of football has a woman’s name.
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