LONDON — For over 50 years, English soccer fans have hoped, prayed and sung that a major trophy would “come home.” Now it finally has. And they can hardly contain themselves.
Thousands of supporters screamed and chanted on Sunday at Trafalgar Square in central London and at other viewing parties around the country, where the final of the women’s European Championship was displayed on big screens.
On Monday, pictures of the Lionesses, as the team is known, dominated the front pages of British newspapers after their 2-1 win over Germany at Wembley Stadium in London, the headlines lauding them as “game changers” or “history makers” and declaring “No more years of hurt.”
Politicians and royals sent messages and congratulations to the team on its victory – a dramatic conclusion with parallels to England’s last major championship, in 1966, when the country hosted the men’s World Cup and its team defeated Germany in the final.
But the success held the potential to go beyond national pride and euphoria, with women’s soccer occupying the public consciousness in Britain like never before.
“I think we really made a change,” said the team’s Dutch coach, Sarina Wiegman, at a news conference after the match. The team had done a lot for the sport but for the role of women in society, too, she added, a sentiment that was echoed by others.
“It’s been an amazing month and an amazing day yesterday,” said Mark Bullingham, the chief executive of the Football Association, England’s governing body for soccer.
“I think it will really turbocharge everything we have been doing in the women’s game,” he said in an interview on “BBC Breakfast” on Monday, adding that the organization had invested heavily in women’s soccer over the past few years.
“There is no reason we shouldn’t have the same number of girls playing as boys and we think it will create a whole new generation of heroes who girls aspire to be like,” he said.
There’s certainly room for improvement. A report published in March by “Fair Game,” a collective of 34 English soccer clubs, found that a gaping gender divide in soccer clubs throughout England and Wales kept the sport “living in the Dark Ages.”
Only 11.1 percent of board members at Premier League clubs are women, and two-thirds of the league’s teams have all-male boards, the report said. Significantly fewer women were attending games in England compared with other countries.
“This is at a time when public attitudes towards sexism and misogyny are changing, and football needs to change too,” said Stacey Pope, an author of the report.
That change felt possible as the Lionesses emerged victorious on Sunday from a match that was attended by a record number of fans – the crowd of more than 87,000 was the biggest for any European Championship final, men or women.
Queen Elizabeth sent a message of congratulations to the team, writing that while the athletes’ performances deserved praise, “your success goes far beyond the trophy you have so deservedly earned.”
“You have all set an example that will be an inspiration for girls and women today, and for future generations,” she wrote.
Kevin Windsor, a graphic designer in London, watched the match with his 3-year-old daughter, who was wearing a princess gown. “My daughter doesn’t have to have an interest in football. She just has to know that it’s an option,” he wrote on Twitter. “That she can become anything she sets her little heart on. From a princess to a lioness. And everything in between.”