What a weekend for women’s sport. I can’t remember a time like it outside of an Olympics, and I just wish Rachael Heyhoe Flint, England cricketer and football fan, had lived to see it. It was Heyhoe Flint who came up with a Women’s World Cup before the men’s was even thought about and captained England to victory in the inaugural competition in 1973. How she would have loved to see Lord’s full to capacity and rocking to the sound of England fans celebrating a victory that seemed unlikely until the very end.
Anya Shrubsole’s father shared a photo on social media of her as a nine-year-old at Lord’s, dreaming of playing there one day. My niece, who is six, watched every ball of the final and has stated her intention of becoming the England wicket-keeper. She has a dream and she has visible evidence that it’s not an impossible one.
Heyhoe Flint would also have loved the fact that England’s footballers have won both of their matches so far at the Women’s Euros, and have scored eight goals while conceding none.
I was in Breda on Sunday for England’s second group match against Spain. Football is not my regular presenting beat and it’s a steep learning curve, but you don’t need to be an expert to be impressed with England’s fitness, commitment, deep bond as a team and work ethic. They had less than 25% of possession against a Spanish side who completed 600 passes, but they tell me football is not decided on possession or passes, it’s decided on goals.
Fran Kirby took her chance in the first two minutes to slot one past the Spanish goalkeeper, while Millie Bright was harshly denied her first England goal by the assistant referee who flagged for offside. In a game of patience, the referee later did the Lionesses a favour by changing her mind over a penalty she looked to have awarded Spain.
I can imagine now the photographs parents will share of their little girls watching and dreaming of one day emulating Steph Houghton, Ellen White, Jodie Taylor and the rest. This is how it all begins.
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