Article written by Men in Blazers producer, Sophie Gayter.
On Sunday, the English Lionesses take on Germany at Wembley in front of a sold out crowd -- a fitting climax for what has been an incredible tournament to witness so far.
I am lucky that I have spent most of my life in the United States -- the true mecca of Women's Football. Before Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, there was Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain. Female footballers who are both household names and proof that, however difficult, there is a genuine pathway in the women's game in this country.
The same cannot be said for England, the country of my birth where girls were banned from playing from 1921 until 1971. In previous generations, only the most hipster of English football fan would've been able to tell you who Kelly Smith or Casey Stoney was. Not anymore.
The Lionesses Class of 2022 have done more than just inspire the next generation – their delirious joy and technical brilliance have left an exclamation point of an imprint on the English football psyche like never before. We will be talking about Alessia Russo's Puskas worthy backheel against Sweden the same way we talk about Michael Owen slaloming through the Argentinian defense or Gazza's impudent flick and volley against Scotland. No more Bend it like Beckham because there was no English female footballer well known enough to don the title of a feature film. From now on -- Strike it like Stanway or Block it like Bright.
When England take the field on Sunday, I will think of my 12 year old self who was the only girl to turn up to play one afternoon at Primrose Hill park in London and got picked last. With my first touch, I skipped past one boy and sat him on his arse before drilling it home. "Are you sure you're a girl???", he cried.
I'll also think of the generations of female English football players before me who had no organized football at all. My mum grew up in 1960s London and was (and still is!) absolutely football mad. At school, she used to bribe the dinner ladies to let her sneak onto the boys playground to play. She was the best player, and the boys begged the school to let her join the team for real matches and were told a very firm, "No. No girls allowed."
The truth is, whatever happens on Sunday, Football has already come home in England this summer. For the lost generations of English female footballers, to see an England Women’s Team take the field at a sold out Wembley Stadium means absolutely everything. Come Sunday, the tears will be flowing as freely as the beer.
The last time an English national team won a major title was the Men’s World Cup in 1966– also at Wembley Stadium against the Germans at a time when women were still banned from playing. Wouldn’t it be fitting if the women do what the men haven’t been able to do since and end the 56 years of hurt by beating the Germans at Wembley again?