Izzy Christiansen shares her take on the Lionesses success and how it can help shape the future for women’s football in England.
What England achieved in the Euros was nothing short of astonishing. I won’t lie, the entire occasion overwhelmed me. More than 87,000 people at Wembley to watch England defeat Germany and lift a trophy. It doesn’t get much better than that. And it was electric.
Sarina Wiegman and her players deserve every ounce of credit that has come their way, and I hope the celebration of their achievement will continue for some time to come.
However, it is also right that the conversation has turned to legacy; to how we capitalise on this triumph and continue to grow the game in this country, not just at an international level but domestically through the Women’s Super League as well.
Some of my earliest memories are of playing football in the garden with my brother, playing at school with friends – and playing because I loved the game. I also remember being told by a teacher that I wasn’t to play football with the boys at lunchtime anymore, the suggestion being that I should try to find a different hobby instead.
I can still remember how deeply that hurt me. But my generation were also chasing a dream that didn’t exist – to be a professional women’s footballer.
I feel fortunate to be playing the game at a time when that is thankfully no longer the case.
Crucially, the youngsters of today have role models. Role models who are athletic, strong, hard-working, strong-minded, successful women. Idols who they have watched on TV walking around Wembley holding the European Championship trophy aloft – and then woken up to see on social media and on the front and back pages of newspapers, the nation celebrating their achievements.
The reality now should be that more girls than ever are inspired to take up the game. In turn, the talent pools around the country will grow, benefiting the Women’s Super League and the national team in the decades ahead. That has to be the true legacy of this tournament.
I started out at Everton and made my debut in the Champions League here before going on to pursue an undergraduate degree at the University of Birmingham, tying that in with playing for Birmingham City. I then joined Manchester City and later Lyon and have been back at Everton for the past two-and-a-half years.
I know the role this club played in getting the game to where it is now. England’s matchwinner Chloe Kelly, of course, rose to prominence here. But Lucy Bronze, Alex Greenwood, Nikita Parris and Jill Scott all owe a part of their development to Everton, too.
Fifteen years ago, Jill used to drive three hours and back from Sunderland to Liverpool for training and get home at 2am in the morning, juggling that with a part-time job. Now she is winning the Euros in front of almost 90,000 at Wembley. That is how far the game has come.
It has been well publicised that there has already been a huge spike in ticket and season tickets sales around the WSL clubs since last Sunday. That’s great, and I believe that hunger and appetite for the women’s game will continue to grow.
But I also think we need to embrace where the game is at right now, admire how it got here, and appreciate the levels in performance that have been reached. And not only by England.
Germany were fantastic, Spain and Sweden, too. And all those nations have players playing in the WSL.
If you have young children who are interested in football, take them to a WSL game. Let them take in the atmosphere and watch the next generation of trophy winners. Let them meet their favourite players at the end of each match and create those memories. Feed their passion.
Our first game is at home against Leicester City on Sunday 11 September (kick-off 1pm). There’s then a Merseyside derby at Anfield to look forward to on 25 September. Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City all visit Walton Hall Park before the end of November. It’s exciting.
It’s also perfect for families, it is affordable – and the clubs are waiting to welcome supporters with open arms.
Please come along and give us your support. And hopefully be inspired all over again.
We would love to see you there.
Everton Season Ticket Members and Official Members can watch every Women’s Super League fixture at Walton Hall Park for free as part of their Season Ticket/Membership package. To claim your free ticket, visit evertonfc.com/wsltickets. You will need to download your complimentary ticket to your mobile device or print a ticket and show it at the turnstile on the relevant matchday. For more information or to buy tickets for Everton Women fixtures, visit evertonfc.com/wsltickets