ENGLAND’S Euro 2022 dream became reality as Chloe Kelly’s extra-time finish saw the Lionesses beat Germany 2-1 and secure the first major trophy in their history in front of a record-breaking crowd at Wembley.
Kelly prodded the ball past Merle Frohms in the 110th minute to restore the tournament hosts’ lead after fellow substitute Ella Toone’s wonderful lobbed opener just after the hour mark.
Eight-time champions Germany equalized with 11 minutes of normal time remaining through Lina Magull, and the game looked on course for a penalty shoot-out until Kelly’s effort fired Sarina Wiegman’s side to glory.
And there was jubilation at the final whistle as the players tried to take in what they had done amid an almighty roar from the 87,192 crowd – the biggest-ever attendance for any Euros match, men’s or women’s.
As well as that, the match was watched by an average of 11million people on TV, a record for a women’s football match in the UK.
The audience peaked at more than 17million in the closing minutes of the Lionesses’ 2-1 victory at Wembley, according to figures released by the ratings organization Barb.
This is also a record for a women’s football game.
Alex Scott, a former England international, said the Lionesses’ win will be a game-changer in terms of raising the profile of women’s football.
She told BBC Breakfast: “These Lionesses have raised the bar.
“They have changed the way women’s football is viewed in this country.
“The train has left the station and it is gathering pace.
“It will be tragic to take any steps back after what we have witnessed yesterday and through the whole tournament.
“There must be an opportunity for every single girl to play football if they want to.”
The FA’s director of women’s football, Baroness Sue Campbell, said England’s win will make a “phenomenal difference”.
She said: “I think it’ll really take it to another level. But I think what happened yesterday was much broader than football.
“I think it will change the perception of women in sport generally, and I hope to give women and girls real optimism that if they want to do something in life, whatever it is, if they work at it, they’re going to achieve it .”
So for women and girls in Somerset, are there opportunities to get into football? The answer is very much YES.
Currently there are a number of clubs with women and girls football programmes, varying from semi-professional level to grassroots and even walking football.
At one end of the spectrum is Bridgwater United. A club based out of Fairfax Park in Bridgwater that has a very, very strong youth program for girls and a competitive first team currently playing in the FA Women’s National League.
Bridgwater United Academy is being developed in order to invest in upcoming footballing talent and provide the network, coaching, health and lifestyle advice that each player needs to make a successful career in football.
BUFC’s head of performance, Ewan Greenhill said: “Our aim is to ensure that each individual reaches their full potential, both academically and in sporting excellence. Each player has an individual plan which helps them become the best player they can be.
“But we also believe in creating top class people, as a community is at the heart of everything this club stands for. As the players are still studying they will still receive all the necessary support of an academy student-athlete whilst playing.”
So for girls looking to pursue a career in football this might be for you, for more information visit: https://www.bridgwaterunitedwfc.com/
Elsewhere clubs like Ilminster Town Ladies, Bishops Lydeard Ladies and Wellington AFC all have very strong women’s football programmes.
Ilminster currently has two teams and is taking player development very seriously, all while encouraging more and more young girls to get involved.
They said: “If you have been inspired by the Lionesses win at the Euros, there are ways you can support women’s football at grass roots level.
“If you want to play the game, why not come along to one of our training sessions.
“Or as a spectator, we’d love to see you at a game.”
At Wellington AFC, they have seen an increase in interest for the club since the Lionesses win.
Ladies manager Nyima Touray said: “The Lionesses’ awesome victory with a record number of supporters is just incredible.
“It’s a victory for getting more women on a pitch playing football. Our Ladies page on Facebook had 115 views in 23 hours – I hope that translates to more ladies wanting to join and take up football, whether that’s new or returning to the sport.
At the club they also run a Wildcats program for younger girls.
The Wildcats already have a staggering 130 girls registered.
They also train at the Rec on a Thursday evening – 5.30pm-6.30pm for four to 12 years; 6.30pm to 7.45pm for 13-16 years; and 7.30pm to 8.30pm for the Ladies development team.
Finally, Avon and Somerset Constabulary have partnered with Wellington AFC and Somerset FA to offer a free all-inclusive Football program running for 5 weeks over the summer holidays.
The program will run every Wednesday starting from August 3 and finishing on August 31.
The Football program will run at St Johns School sports field between Priory and Cades Farm. If your child is interested please message PCSO Simon Bramley directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
England Women’s legend Casey Stoney sums it up perfectly.
She said taking up football as a young girl “changed my life.”
“My advice [for families who are unsure how their kids will get on] would be: just give it a go.
“How do you know what a kid can or can’t do unless you expose them to it and let them have a go?”