England’s “Lionesses” held a boisterous flag-filled victory party in London on Monday in front of thousands of jubilant fans, after clinching the country’s first major football trophy since 1966.
A capacity crowd of 7,000 supporters packed into Trafalgar Square to give the women’s team a rapturous reception as they paraded the European championship trophy following their 2-1 win over Germany.
A tournament record crowd of 87,192 was at London’s Wembley Stadium to savour the victory on Sunday evening and the BBC said more than 23 million viewers tuned in on television or online.
“We said that we wanted to make our legacy about winning and that’s what we did,” England captain Leah Williamson told the crowd that included boys and girls in Trafalgar Square.
“The party’s not going to stop!” she added after her squad stayed up into the early hours celebrating.
“This team likes to work hard, but we definitely like to party harder.”
Chloe Kelly, who scored the winner deep into extra-time, said she was “a bit worse for wear”. “I ain’t stopped dancing!” she added.
British royals, political leaders, football legends and star-struck youngsters have all hailed the players’ game-changing exploits.
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‘Need more girls’
The men’s team failed last year to conquer Europe, falling short in the final to extend a winless streak that stretches back more than half a century to the 1966 World Cup.
Not only did the men lose to Italy on penalties after extra time, but the match itself was marred by drunken thuggery on the part of some England fans.
On Monday, the festive and family-friendly atmosphere seen at the women’s tournament extended into the celebration in central London.
“I’m really, really happy!” said Lauren, aged eight, attending with her younger brother.
“It was incredible. We took the roof off the house!” said Lauren’s mother Lisa Christie, 45, from west London.
Christie said that while Lauren is a keen footballer, her mixed team currently only has four girls.
“We need more girls and hopefully now we’ll get them.”
Many who ventured to Trafalgar Square had been at Wembley for the game itself.
“It was electric,” said 22-year-old Olivia Firth, from Preston in northern England, who with her mother partied in one of the stadium’s hospitality suites late into the evening.
“They were outstanding. It’s such an inspiration for a lot of kids, not just boys now,” she added of the Lionesses.
Donna Rossall, 45, from the Isle of Wight off England’s southern coast, also took her football-mad 13-year-old daughter Eve to the match and the Trafalgar Square party.
“The knock-on effects for girls coming up and playing will be tremendous,” predicted the self-proclaimed “football mum” whose daughter took up playing the game six years ago.
“I’ve explained to Eve that when I was at school, girls just didn’t play football, so this is great.”
Countless fans watched in pubs, bars and other venues nationwide, as women’s football fever swept England and helped distract from economic and political crisis.
“These Lionesses have raised the bar. They have changed the way women’s football is viewed in this country,” former England international Alex Scott, who hosted the Trafalgar Square celebration, told BBC TV.
Hopeful for change
Those watching the final there had erupted with sheer euphoria. Some dived into its famous fountains, fittingly watched over by the square’s four lion statues.
The Lionesses later gatecrashed coach Sarina Wiegman’s post-match press conference with a rowdy rendition of the England anthem “It’s coming home!” — the 1990s football song officially called “Three Lions”.
David Baddiel, who recorded it with fellow comedian Frank Skinner and pop group Lightning Seeds for the men’s Euro 1996 tournament, said the women had helped redefine the sport.
“Football is not by default owned by men,” he told BBC radio.
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“It’s the same game, played by women or played by men.
“And what’s totally brilliant in the last sort of few weeks is the sense that the country can get behind it in entirely the same way.”
Mark Peters, 45, a community worker in Birmingham, who attended Sunday’s game and Monday’s celebrations, said his 12-year-old daughter “loves” the game but her school does not currently let girls play football.
“Hopefully it will change. We can now say to them ‘why aren’t the girls playing?'” he said. “It’s a bit backward in 2022.”