On Wednesday night, I called my three daughters into the living room. The BBC coverage of England’s opening game of the Women’s EURO 2022 had just begun and Hollywood actress Natalie Portman, who owns a team in the States, was giving a monologue about the impact the tournament would have. The legends that would be made, the people it would inspire. A new era of women’s football.
Nearly 70,000 seventy thousand people packed into Old Trafford ready to watch England get off to a winning start against Austria.
I grabbed my girls. I said you need to come and watch this. This is a big moment for women’s football. This is a big moment in history.
England’s Lauren Hemp posed with a delighted fan at Old Trafford for Euro 2022’s opener
Nearly 70,000 fans were in attendance for England’s opening Euro 2022 game at Old Trafford
England’s Lionesses kicked off their Euro 2022 campaign with a 1-0 victory over Austria
Jermaine Jenas says the Euro 2022 championships could inspire the next generation of players
My eldest daughter is 14, she’s seen a few tournaments before. My other two are nine and six.
I was seven when the World Cup took place in 1990. It was the first I watched and I’ll never forget it. I know exactly where I was, I know exactly what was going through my head. I just looked at it and thought: ‘this is the best thing I’ve ever seen. I could talk you through the whole tournament.
As much as I always wanted to be a footballer, that enlightened the dream for a seven-year-old. That is what is going to happen now.
All it takes is these moments, those tiny seeds to be planted.
And to see 70,000 — a record attendance for a Women’s EURO match — shows how massive the interest is.
It’s the culmination of years in the making. There are girls who have retired long before this tournament that have played their part, drawing eyeballs on to the game year after year. The current crop taking it further. On top of that, the Women’s Super League is making strides. People are seeing teams getting to Champions League finals, admiring the brilliance of the likes of Emma Hayes, now giving her insight on men’s games. It’s a combination of all those things but, above all, is the quality. If it’s not good enough, no one goes to watch it.
Germany eased to a 4-0 victory over 10-woman Denmark on Saturday at Brentford’s Stadium
Supporters have turned out in their thousands for Euro 2022 games during its opening week
The women’s Euro 2022 tournament has enjoyed record attendances during its first week
I think that’s what spits in the faces of the idiots who still want to question how genuine the interest is in the women’s game.
Nearly 70,000 people have decided to leave their house, however they acquired their ticket, and support the England football team. They don’t have to do that. No one is forcing them. They do because they are interested and appreciate the quality on show.
That tells me much more about where the game is more than anything some idiot who’s tweeting something on social media.
But this is also why I’m proud to be a part of the ‘I am the 12th Woman’ campaign during the tournament to encourage fans of all genders to show their passion for women’s football but also to help shine a light on the gender bias, even in the language used to describe the fans as the 12th man, within the sport.
My three daughters love football, my mum followed by dad all around the Sunday Leagues watching him play, which in turn, gave me a love and a passion to want to watch football. I’ve got a sister who plays football in America as well.
The build-up to this tournament has been massive. This level of focus and pressure on the girls is a pretty new experience for many of them. When the eyeballs have been on them before, it’s been in the likes of Holland for the previous Women’s EURO competition or in Japan for the Olympics. This is on home turf and that’s a completely different feeling.
I thought they dealt with the pressure well against Austria. Opening games like this are always tight and tentative. Players don’t want to lose instead of going out all guns blazing trying to win. That’s understandable as there’s a lot of expectation on the girls.
There was no doubt that they weren’t at their best but they were good enough to get the win and that is the main thing in the opening game of a huge tournament.
Spain are one of the tournament’s favourites after impressing in their 4-1 win over Finland
The attendance at the Theatre of Dreams set a new record for a match at any women’s Euros
Jenas says he is proud to be part of the ‘I am the 12th Woman campaign’
The holding midfielders kept things ticking over and that is what England will need going into tomorrow’s game against Norway. You need that solid nature to build off. I thought Mary Earps, who went to the same school as me, was good in goal.
Norway probably provide the biggest test of the group so it will be interesting to see how Sarina Wiegman approaches it. She has some decisions to make, including whether she sticks with captain Leah Williamson in defence or moves her back into midfield.
It’s the top end of the pitch that England are dangerous. The front three is where England will win this tournament. I was impressed with Beth Mead but there’s definitely even more to come. Ellen White is getting up to speed again.
I think England will grow into the competition. I don’t think it will change too much tactically, the team will just begin to gel. They will get better and better.
And the deeper they go, they more incredible it’s going to become. The place is going to go wild. I imagine there’s going to be BOXPARK moments again with drinks flying when goals go in.
If they can get it done, jeez, just imagine the schools and the summer camps and all those girls — and boys — who will want to play football. It’s going to be amazing for the game.