Well, that was quite the weekend! The women’s Euros 2022 rolled into town for three and a half weeks. The culmination, of course, was the Wembley final which ended the tournament last Sunday. Unless you have been living under a rock for the period in question, you will be well aware that The Lionesses are now European champions. They defeated Germany, I repeat Germany, in a thrilling final that required extra time to determine the eventual winner. Football came home.
The show may well have left town but that doesn’t mean the memories or the legacy need to leave with it. We’re spoilt for choice really but here’s what’s stuck with me as the dust begins to settle.
1. It’s time for the trolls to return to the bridge that they crawled out from under - permanently. Women’s football may be a slightly-different game to the one played by men but to dwell on this really misses the point. It is a thrilling and skilful spectacle in its own right. Let’s just enjoy it!
2. How refreshing was it to watch a tournament where, despite the relentless tempo, theatrics and time-wasting were conspicuous by their absence? The players seemed hell-bent on showcasing their talents and the spectacle was all the better for it.
3. The general atmosphere in and around the stadiums was genuinely heart-warming. No booing of national anthems, no aggression, no drunkenness. This, allied with sensible ticket pricing meant an abundance of children in attendance. For many no-doubt, the final would have been a first visit to Wembley - what a night to do it! How many children will be inspired to take up a new sport for the first time? That is a genuine legacy.
4. Cliches are there to be dispelled. It turns out that England do not automatically have to turn to gibbering wrecks when confronted by Germany in a crucial knock-out match. It’s taken thirty two years but Gary Lineker has merrily revised his infamous quip. It now reads ‘Football, a game where 22 women chase a ball for 90 minutes and then England actually win!!’.
It gets stranger still, a peculiar sensation washed over me as England serenely moved through the tournament. I finally managed to put my finger on it - confidence. I can get used to this. No more hiding behind the settee. The icing on the cake? I even believed that winning on penalties would be a mere formality!
5. If football has indeed ‘come home’, might it be time to rethink our unofficial anthem? David Baddiel certainly seems to think so, suggesting it’s time for his song to make a dignified exit. I think plenty of people could get on-board with this suggestion so long as it isn’t replaced by Sweet Caroline. Neil Diamond seems to be making an appearance at most sporting events of note these days and I’m not entirely sure why. We’re world-renowned for our song writing in this part of the globe, surely we can come up with something fresh?
One final thought as a fanboy of all things floral. You may be aware of the buzz-term attached to elite sport over the last few years - marginal gains. It’s those tiny refinements when striving for constant improvement. Those 1% tweaks can soon add up - just enough to pip your closest rivals. Well, it turns out that several of the Lionesses were wearing an innovative new Puma boot, designed specifically for female feet. The best bit? Each boot was emblazoned with a rose pattern, designed by LIberty no-less. Maybe football was guided home with a sprinkling of flower power?
By Alan Smith 03 August 2022