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How Euro 2022 glory changed women's football in England

BY Carrie Dunn

21st Sep 2023 Culture

3 min read

How Euro 2022 glory changed women's football in England
Acclaimed author on women’s football Carrie Dunn looks back at when the Lionesses were victorious at Euro 2022, and how it changed women’s football in England forever  
I have never been the kind of sports fan who remembers statistics. Nor do I have the kind of memory that has instant recall of the entirety of a match. Instead, I remember the moments that have meant the very most to me, and the excitement, the happiness, that I felt.
So I know that in the years to come, when I think of the sunny, glorious days of July 2022, I’ll remember it in a series of snapshots.

Below-par opening match

Assuring friends and colleagues after England’s mediocre performance in the first match of the Women’s Euros that it didn’t matter, that the result was the only important thing, and the displays would follow.

Euro 2022 was special

England celebrate winning Euro 2022 in front of a home crowd at Wembley Stadium.
The phone calls and incoming emails gradually ramping up as media outlets across the country and all over the world began to sense that this tournament was going to be something special for England; answering the phone at 6am and already primed to go on the radio and explain once again what a seminal summer this was proving to be.

Alessia Russo's backheeled goal

Literally falling off my chair with the audacity of Alessia Russo’s back-heel, the third of the Lionesses’ goals against Sweden in the semi-final.
"I remember literally falling off my chair with the audacity of Alessia Russo's back-heel goal"
I crashed on to the floor with a holler not of pain but of delight and incredulity.

Chloe Kelly's famous winner and iconic celebration

Chloe Kelly playing for England in 2022, after Euro 2022
Chloe Kelly scoring the winner in extra time of the final against Germany, checking mid-celebration that her moment of glory was not about to be stolen from her by the electronic eye of VAR.
The final whistle blowing, and me bursting into tears.
"The final whistle blew and I burst into tears, explaining to my husband that I was 'just so happy'"
“Are you all right?” asked my husband—used to the intensity of my reactions when it comes to sport but having never seen me crying to such an extent.
I gathered myself enough to be able to reply through choking sobs: “I’m just so happy.”

Football comes home

England football fans celebrating with painted faces
The trite trilling about “football coming home” was fun, of course. Initially a song laden with irony to mark the men’s 1996 European Championships held in England, the chorus has taken on a life of its own. Fans wheel it out for their clubs and for their countries, a way to assert one’s superiority and hopes for victory.
But it wasn’t just about winning a trophy. It wasn’t about seeing Beth Mead’s beaming face on the front and back pages of every single newspaper I picked up, although the way these young women became superstars in the space of a month was truly thrilling.
Nor was it about the chatter in the pub and the corner shop being about the Lionesses, with everyone watching the matches, regardless of how casual their interest in football.
It wasn’t even about those slightly smug memes on social media, noting that when an England senior team last won a major international tournament, back in 1966, women were still officially banned from playing the game at all—and wouldn’t it be just so hilarious if they were the ones to “bring it home” after all that time?
No. For me, it was about the women who had laid the groundwork, some of the most incredible women I have ever had the good fortune to get to know.

The trailblazers

The women who set up their own leagues and competitions, found their own pitches, and got their own sponsorship deals, even when they weren’t allowed to play on FA-affiliated grounds.
The so-called “Lost Lionesses”, who went to Mexico for an unofficial, unsanctioned Women’s World Cup in 1971, suffered dire retribution, and never spoke about it—even to each other—for the next half-century.
The England squads who played for the honour of it and paid for their own travel, doing their own training and fitness work every night after work or school, using their holiday allowance so they could go to international tournaments and represent their country.
"The forerunners of the newly minted superstars had a share in the glory"
When the whistle blew—and after I calmed down—I picked up my phone, and emailed or texted dozens of these women. I congratulated them, because although Sarina Wiegman and her team lifted the trophy, the victory was one orchestrated in the decades before. Without the commitment and sacrifices of the previous generations, the triumphant, lauded Lionesses would never have been able to take to the Wembley turf at all.
Within a few minutes, my phone began to ping with responses. To a woman, they were thrilled to have seen such a triumph; some were there in the stadium, others were watching on television at home, but all of them felt as I did: that these forerunners of today’s newly minted superstars had a share in the glory.

The Reign of the Lionesses book cover
The Reign of the Lionesses by Carrie Dunn (Pitch Publishing) is available now
Banner photo: The women's England football team in 2022, shortly after their Euro 2022 victory. Credit: James Boyes
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