I just think how proud 10-year-old Alice would be right now if she knew that in 2022 England’s women’s team won the Euros on home ground, knowing that in 1966 when England last won a trophy women’s football was banned.
In light of the Lionesses beating Germany at Wembley, I thought I would share my own personal story with football, both men’s and women’s.
I have followed football since I was four years old, my dad would always go with his friends and one day I just asked him where he was going in which he replied, “to the football” and I asked if I could go too. On Saturday 15th September 2007 I attended my first ever football match Leicester City vs QPR in the Championship and from then on, I was fixated in the beautiful game.
Football was my everything, however, I wasn’t allowed to play football at school, and we could only play netball or hockey, and to think now that all these young girls are going to get that opportunity is incredible.
At the age of 14 I decided to take matters into my own hands and made the decision to join my local girls’ U15s side. I was by no means the best at all and was playing with girls who had played the game since the age of 3 but all I did was go out there every game and just put 100% in and that’s what everyone appreciated the most.
Now, I ended up playing for a year but then gave up because I didn’t feel as if I was good enough compared to the other girls who had been playing the game since such a young age, as a result of this I didn’t feel like I fitted in. Looking back on this, sometimes I really wish I had just carried on because I really did enjoy it, even though I didn’t have the technical ability I would pretty much bomb up and down the line chasing people down. But whilst looking back on it and regretting not carrying on, I also look back on it and think well maybe it was the start of getting to where I am now, maybe that was the nudge I needed and now to be making such a small contribution to the growth and coverage of women’s football.
After finishing playing, I carried on watching Leicester City’s men’s team with my dad, which I have now been doing for the past 15 years, before I was introduced to the women’s game at the start of this year.
After writing an article about Brendan Rodgers for my university’s website, in January this year I was contacted by Beyond the 90 LCFC Women who invited me to write articles for the Leicester City Women’s Supporters Club’s newly launched website. Before this I hadn’t properly followed the women’s game apart from watching the odd Lionesses games when broadcasted on the telly and during Leicester’s title-winning season in the FA Women’s Championship, I would start checking the scores to see how they were getting on. This opportunity from Beyond the 90 allowed me to attend matches and to write match reports on them, unknowingly to me at the time how much this would spark my interest in women’s football.
From a schoolgirl unable to play football in PE lessons to being taunted by the boys in my year group for liking football, to playing football but not feeling like I’m good enough to write about the women’s game, I know 14-year-old Alice would be in awe not only by how much I have grown but also how much the game has grown. From not being able to play football at school myself, knowing that young girls will get this opportunity and women’s football becoming more of a ‘norm’ makes me beam from ear to ear with pride.
Now let’s talk about THAT game, I was at the King Power Stadium watching Leicester City vs Sevilla’s pre-season friendly, although I was barely watching it as I had the final streaming on my phone and was too busy watching that! To see the number of men of women gathered around the tv screens on the concourse watching the first half of the game just blew me away, I just really did not expect it. Although, where there are positives always come negatived as a lad, probably about the same age as me said something negative about the women, I didn’t really catch what he said, but his mum soon shot him down to which I gave her a smile, she then said to me “they’re a lot better than the men anyway aren’t they”, I couldn’t help but agree because they’ve been embarrassing at times to be honest, to which the dad agreed with me!
However, it just gets better, when it was announced over the tannoys during the game that England were 1-0 up and there was this massive roar from the crowd I just couldn’t help but cry, I’m still not sure why, I think I just couldn’t believe how many people inside the stadium were cheering about a woman’s game.
By the end of the game, when it was announced that we’d won, oh my goodness, the noise and chants of “it’s coming home” just got to me again and the tears just came streaming out, men, women, boys and girls alike were stood cheering and chanting about our Lionesses, our European champions, it just really got to me and made me feel so so proud of how far this game has come.
Watching the Lionesses in the Euros this summer just sparked my interest even more, inspiring me to attend more LCFC Women games this season and really push coverage of their matches. If like me you’ve been following the Lionesses in this tournament and felt inspired by what you saw then don’t stop, go out, find your local women’s football team, whether it be WSL or grassroots, go, go and support them, because this is only the beginning.