Sport: Euro 2022: Grassroots clubs already snowed under with requests from girls to join after Lionesses’ victory

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England’s historic victory at the Euros could be a turning point for the women’s game with grassroots clubs already snowed in with request for girls and women to join.

The Lionesses beat Germany 2-1 in extra time at Wembley Stadium in front of 87,000 supporters, England’s first major tournament since 1966.

Thousands of fans from across the country celebrated the victory in Trafalgar Square today.

Romina Calatayud, founder and CEO of Girls United, a south London football school that aims to make the sport more accessible to girls and women, said she woke up to a flurry of requests in her inbox.

Having “lived through the lack of visibility and the comments” over the years, Sunday’s match was “extraordinary to watch”, she said.

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“I’m really feeling hopeful that other girls will not go through what women my age and older have gone through,” she told i.

“The whole tournament, even before the wonderful result, it has been quite a different impact this time with the visibility it has got, the success of the team, the quality of the football.

“We’ve really seen the conversation change, the mentality, there’s been a far-reaching impact.

Ten of the mascots at Sunday’s game were from Girls United, an opportunity that Ms Calatayud said had the power to change lives.

She said role models like the Lionesses were invaluable to the growth of the women’s game. “The next few months will be crucial in what we do with that momentum – how do we make sure we get that professional level success on an amateur level.

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“We need everyone to come together to put a strategy in place that starts at the very beginning and keeps up with demand. We need to ask how do we keep girls in the game with the right type of programmes. We need visibility and investment.”

Sophie Page, club secretary at Brockwell United, an amateur south London football club for women and non-binary players catering for all ages and abilities, told i the club has also been inundated with requests to join.

“It shows you that representation matters, the national team success does trickle down to grassroots,” she said.

Around 30 players from the club went to Wembley to watch England’s win.

“Lots of our players have faced barriers with playing the game, from being stopped at a young age as there weren’t girls’ teams, to not being taken seriously, so at full time some of our players were in tears,” she said.

“It felt like a huge moment and victory, not just for the Lionesses but for our players and women’s football in general.”

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Female football players in England have had to contend with shocking attitudes over the years. The sport was banned for almost 50 years until 1970, while a recently resurfaced tweet posted by the FA during the 2015 World Cup described the women’s team as primarily “mothers, partners and daughters”.

Ms Page added: “I am optimistic it’s a turning point but I am also cautious as we saw interest in the game grow after the 2019 World Cup but then it petered out.

“It feels like some are only just waking up to how amazing women’s football is and we need those people to stay committed and interested.

“The fact that we won the tournament and won on home turf is huge and will make a difference, but we have to ensure this is a turning point, a moment of change.”

She said engagement in the game, whether as a spectator or a player, and funding were both crucial to maintaining that momentum.

Meanwhile, issues ranging from lack of access to pitches to boots that fail to cater to women’s feet were among those holding the women’s game back.

“We need to see better pathways for girls getting into the professional game, girls need to have the same access to football at schools because sadly we know that’s still a huge issue and grassroots teams need to be given the space to grow and develop by being given quality pitch space,” Ms Page added.

“We also need to see brands take this seriously, develop football shoes that are catered to women’s feet, not just a replica of men’s boots.”

Gaia Laidler, of Goal Diggers, which also caters for women and non-binary players in the capital, said she too was “cautiously optimistic” that England’s victory would mean more opportunity at a grassroots level.

The club, based in east London, has hundreds of players, making it one of the biggest of its kind, with Ms Laidler adding it is currently “incredibly oversubscribed”.

She agreed that lack of pitch space was a key issue holding back the women’s amateur game.

Because of the how the pitches are allocated historically, “a typical 11-a-side pitch in London only has a men’s team playing on it”, she said, adding now that visibility has increased “it means that we can challenge some of these issues”.

England's Euro 2022 star Lauren Hemp set to make a cameo in Hollyoaks .
England's Euro 2022 star Lauren Hemp is set to make a cameo in Hollyoaks, as she offers a helping hand to Kathleen-Angel McQueen with coaching her football team.Following the Lionesses historic Euros victory last month, the football star will appear in the village during Wednesday's episode, and it's no surprise she leaves the residents star-struck with her skills.

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