There are many ways to spend a Saturday. Personally, I’m a sucker for a slow start to the day. Today, however was a little different. Today, I was about to witness history at the Wembley Football Stadium. A rare and special occassion.
I was out of the house early, on my way to catch a train to London - we’ll skim over the fact that my train got cancelled and it took me over three hours to get to London (thanks, Northern Line) because this post isn’t a ramble, it’s a celebration.
There was a real buzz in London surrounding the game today. Along my journey I saw Dads with their daughters, sons with their mums. People from all backgrounds and ages, on their way to a watch a game of football. These are the moments that reveal the power of sport.
Looking out at Wembley Stadium, I couldn’t help but think about when I was a kid and how women’s football still wasn’t appreciated, funded or given the platforms it deserves. In many ways, it still doesn’t hit the mark but today was a landmark occasion with England having their first competitive home game at Wembley against Northern Ireland.
This once was my dream. I grew up playing and loving this game with my brother. We spent hours in the backyard, kicking a ball around and firing one (or a hundred) over the fence into next-door’s garden. At School, the fields were dominated by boys playing football with myself on the sidelines wishing I could join in. On the odd ocassion they were short on players, I would sub in. I’ve taken blasts to the face and never shyed away from a tackle. More than anything, I enjoyed the camaraderie that the game brought. It was a bridge that closed the gap between us that societal norms enforced.
I saw that same camaraderie today at Wembley and I wonder how euphoric and honoured these players on the pitch felt. To finally be playing at the ‘home of football’. These women and this occassion is the fulfilled dream of so many young girls who grew up without opportunity to play this beautiful game in a professional setting, who couldn’t see what they wanted to be and had never heard the names, Lucy Bronze, Nikita Parris or Ellen White.
I’m proud of how far this game has come and I’m even more excited to see young people, of all genders, become inspired by a generation of women who are paving the way for them to follow their dreams.