It has finally arrived – the day so many of our footballers have dreamt about since they were children, pulling on football boots for the first time. Soon they will be putting on their England shirts; tying up their pink laces on their new boots and running out onto the hallowed Wembley turf to the cheers of 55,000 fans.
It seems as if this is a culmination of a lifetime’s work, and when I look back to the generations who were not even permitted to play the sport; when I was coaching youngsters the mothers who asked me not to encourage their daughters as they didn’t want them playing the football; the time when schools wouldn’t let the girls play and the FA would not countenance girls’ leagues – we have really come a very long way.
I look at the women in the current team, some of whom had to go to the USA to play; Fara who endured seven years of homelessness with only her football to keep her going; Eni Aluko about to qualify for as a lawyer, Karen Carney on the verge of her 100th cap; Alex Scott, who dreamt of this as she played on a concrete pitch; women who have had to juggle jobs and/or studying with intensive training – how did/do they manage?
Do they worry that the occasion, with 55,000 eager, happy supporters will get to them and impede their performance, or will the encouragement give them the confidence to play at their best? I wonder if they managed to sleep last night or whether the excitement was too much.
I am convinced that the combined success of our rugby team winning the World Cup this summer, and the cricket team retaining the Ashes and going on to series wins over India and South Africa has all helped to raise the profile of women’s sport this year. Its been incredible so far.
Whatever the result on Sunday, the fact that the women’s team had the potential support to fill the stadium must have given many a lot to think about.
And we will be able to say that we were there, cheering the team on and witnessing this historic occasion – COME ON ENGLAND!