It’s more than just a game

There is lot of talk about this being the biggest and best World Cup ever and this has been demonstrated not only by the performances on the pitch but also the media coverage and record TV viewing figures. But it’s doing so much more than that and it’s something we have noticed on a personal level.

2015 was a fantastic adventure. Having been in a Canadian bubble for a month, we couldn’t believe the level of support when we got back home. It was unprecedented and the Lionesses had captured the hearts and minds of a nation. But this tournament has raised the bar once again.

I (Sophie) have been a football supporter for as long as I can remember. I spent my youth decked out in my favourite football shirts, much to the dismay of my mother. She tried at points but she could never comprehend my love for this sport. Fast forward to 2019 and the Lionesses have done what no other football team have managed…they have got my mother engaged. Not only watching on TV but she attended her very first Lionesses match in Nice and now, every England game, I can expect a flurry of messages about her favourite players, the referees and the controversial decisions. She and my step dad love Nikita Parris by the way.

When I (Rachel) was born 30 years ago, my mother was delighted I was a girl as she thought she wouldn’t have to deal with the football excitement that she got from my dad. How wrong was she?! Now, not only has she attended her first Lionesses game at this tournament (she’s Irish), but every night, no matter who’s playing, I get an in depth run down of her take on each game. She and my step dad are hooked and I’ve even received photographs of my dogs glued to the TV. I’ve also lost count of the amount of times my Dad has told me there is women’s football on TV no matter how often I’ve told him that RTE & TG4 are covering all the games. What can I say, he’s excited and I can’t blame him.

Previously, when we’ve returned from tournaments, work conversations generally take the format of “Where were you?”, “What World Cup/Euros?”, “Who was playing?”, “Are England any good?” On Monday (24th June), however, during our brief return from the World Cup, the majority of our conversations were “How good were the Lionesses?”, “VAR is a pain isn’t it”?, “Those goalkeepers are amazing?”, and “Can we go all the way?”. What a gear shift!

It’s amazing to see the bigger things – the viewing figures, the marketing campaigns like Lucozade and Budweiser, the back pages of the newspapers. It really is a beautiful picture. But for us, what really makes it hit home is the little things. We’ve been doing this for 7 years, and while friends and family have always been supportive, there has never been the connection that there is now. While there are many hurdles left to face, the women’s game is certainly breaking down barriers. This is a very special, and emotional, time to be a part of the game. A huge thanks not only to the England team and the staff but the media and everyone else who are continuing to chip away at that glass ceiling.

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