The Euros are happening. Did you know that? No, not that Euros, the Women’s Euros.
Over the last week or so, we have been entertained by the wonderful spectacle that is European Championship football and this time, it’s women’s turn.
Following on from the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the UEFA Women’s Championship has kicked off in England and so far, it’s proven to be an amazing spectacle of goals, stars, and most importantly, high quality football. But than again, why should we have expected less? Over the last twenty years, the rise of the women’s game in football has been phenomenal and as we enter the second week of the European tournament, the game continues to break records in attendance and TV viewing figures. All matches have been covered live by most of the major broadcasters in Europe and so far, the ladies have not failed to impress. The English are the favourites, having bagged one of the most sought after coaches in Sarina Wiegman. Wiegman led her native Dutch to the final of the 2019 World Cup, only to lose to the mighty US, who have been the team to beat over the last twenty years. Now she has a massively increased budget, courtesy of the English Football Association, and the fruits of that investment are clearly showing, with England putting eight goals past the Norwegians who are regularly ranked in the top ten nations, and went into the championship as one of the favourites. The English are yet to face the three big in the form of France, the Netherlands and eight times winners Germany, so there is still all to play for, as we head into the quarter finals.
But looking beyond the football, the tournament is setting standards that are not only impressive, but also laying down markers that could teach a thing or two about the men’s game. There is a strong emphasis on the LGBTQ community, anti-racism and inclusiveness, with all teams taking the knee before each game and the captains arm bands based on the rainbow flag. What’s very noticeable is sheer lack of hostility towards players who are open about their sexuality – something which is still virtually impossible in the men’s game today. Crowds are mostly families or young people and the atmosphere is clearly loud but fun, with none of the tension and hostility found at the men’s international matches.
Despite efforts by many to undermine or accuse the women’s style of play as inferior or simplistic, their game is improving at an incredible rate and highly successful tournaments like this are only going to raise the profile so much that they cannot be ignored by the general football public any more. We are already seeing full house attendance for women’s matches at massive venues like the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona and it’s safe to say that come the next World Cup, taking place in Australia and New Zealand in 2023, the women’s game will become one of the most marketable opportunities in sports history.
Featured image by Ailura on Wikimedia.