LONDON (AP) – “He’s coming home!”
England won a major international football tournament on Sunday for the first time in more than half a century. The fact that it’s the women’s team, not the men’s team, that ended decades of pain made it all the sweeter for many fans.
Crowds erupted in Wembley Stadium in London, fan zones across the country and in pubs, clubs and lounges as the whistle sounded after extra time with the score England 2, Germany 1 . It was the first-ever European victory for the Lionesses of England and the first major international trophy for an England team – men’s or women’s – since 1966.
In London’s Trafalgar Square, fans chanted “It’s coming home!” – a reference to the English anthem “Three Lions”, with its refrain “football’s coming home” – and jumped into public fountains in celebration.
“I’m so happy,” said Becca Stewart, 24. “It shows that after all these years, women’s football is something to care about and to shout about. We did it – the men couldn’t do it, but we did it!
At Wembley, the crowd burst into “Sweet Caroline”, the Neil Diamond song that has become a football anthem.
“The girls finally brought football home,” said Mary Caine, who attended the game with her 8-year-old daughter. ” We are pleased ! It’s historic. It was magical in there and a watershed moment for women’s sport.
Whatever the outcome, the Lionesses have energized a nation and taken interest in women’s sport in Britain to a whole new level. Their success provided a welcome distraction from the UK’s political turmoil and its cost of living crisis amid soaring food and fuel prices.
The final was watched by a record crowd of over 87,000 at Wembley and a huge TV audience, after a tournament that received unprecedented media coverage. More than 9 million people watched the broadcast of England’s 4-0 semi-final victory over Sweden last week.
Before Sunday, no British team – England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – had won a major international football tournament since England beat West Germany in the World Cup male of 1966.
At this time, women’s teams were banned from using the facilities by the Football Association, the sport’s governing body in England. The FA had ruled in 1921 that “the game of football is wholly unsuitable for women and should not be encouraged”. The ban was not lifted until 50 years later.
Now, said Jade Monroe, watching the women’s final on the big screen in Trafalgar Square, her 6-year-old daughter will know she can do “anything she wants in life”.
England’s trophy drought was all but cut short a year ago when the men reached the final of a pandemic-delayed Euro 2020 competition, only to lose to Italy in a penalty shoot-out .
The dynamic men’s side under coach Gareth Southgate were also hailed as a team that represented modern Britain – a multi-ethnic team whose members knelt against racism before games, supported LGBT pride, campaigned against poverty and defeated long-time rivals like Germany.
However, the Men’s Euro 2021 final was marred by drunken riots outside Wembley Stadium, and racist social media messages directed at some players after England’s defeat served as a reminder that there remains still a long way to go.
There was no repeat of the rude behavior at Sunday’s game, where the crowd included many families with football-mad girls.
In many parts of England, girls still have far fewer playing opportunities than boys, and the women’s national team lacks the diversity of the men’s team. But its stars delighted a nation.
Mitra Wilson, who watched the final in Trafalgar Square, said the team was an inspiration to her daughters, aged 8 and 9.
“It empowers them to know they can do it and nothing has to hold them back,” she said.
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