I cried when England won. It’s been a long journey for women’s football – and for me

When the final whistle sounded at the end of extra time, I pressed send match report, put my face in my hand and cried. Big loud, throbbing sighs, hunched back.

It wasn’t the first time I cried about the incredible and adorable streak of lionesses winning their first major championship and I haven’t stopped since.

It’s hard to explain how much this victory means to me. When I first started writing about women’s football, there were no full-time jobs in a national newspaper for those looking to cover the game.

I was asked to write a weekly column for the Guardian in 2017, on the eve of the Euros, where Sarina Wegmann was expected to lead the Netherlands to a home win. Address on first vertical? “England’s euro adventure can bring glory abroad and lasting impact at home.” My first interview? with Laura BassettEngland’s late goalscorer in the 2015 World Cup semi-finals in Canada, heading to the European Championship without a club after Notts County collapsed.

Fast forward and after 1093 articles I just watched the game I Gave Everything to Build – which I care about deeply – I have a moment that will transform it and therefore the resources and paid labor available to cover it. Incredibly, it doesn’t feel like you’re at the top but at base camp, ready to go, with all the gear you need to get to the top.

There are people who have been pioneers in this game longer than I have – on and off the pitch. I arrived at a time when minds were starting to change in the industry. I could see potential job opportunities. That doesn’t mean it’s always about that. Trying to understand the feelings of Tony Leighton, Jane O’Neill and Cath Eto’o, who have been covering women’s football for decades when Leah Williamson lifted the trophy on Sunday, is impossible.

They also had a lot of hand on the cup, like many others – I could probably ask for a fingernail.

Every journalist who covers the football team – male or female – gets to know the players and staff. We sit down with them and dive into their stories, sometimes asking deeply personal questions about their state of mind, their feelings, their tragedies, their health and their failures. You connect with so many people, with their stories, their passion, and their unrelenting desire to push themselves to be the best. In women’s football, players tell their stories freely, knowing that the fans they come into contact with may be interested in the game and its journey to the front and back pages.

Alicia Russo celebrates after her outrageous heel goal against Sweden Photographer: Karl Rissen/Reuters

I have I spoke to Chloe Kelly On the ACL injury that kept her out of the Olympics, To Kira Walsh On how she wanted to quit football after the 2019 World Cup, to Eileen White dyed with tears After GP left the Olympics in extra time in the quarter-finals, their hat-trick was not enough to beat Australia. And the list continues.

If the men’s team had won last summer, or if they had gone further at the World Cup in Qatar, I imagine the many journalists who have covered the team for decades would have upset their feelings in a way similar and different. We work late nights, long days and have more unpleasant hours than we enjoy on Instagram. It is of course worth it.

Women’s football has been driving the development of men’s football for decades, if not a century. At present, it still relies very heavily on interactive media and invests in it to help it grow. Of course, men’s football also needs the press to maintain its deep character in society, but the nascent nature of women’s football is prompting a much greater openness from players and managers who recognize the importance of the interrelation – we cultivate them and they; make us grow.

So while the tears and cheers in the press box may be unheard of, a little reprehensible, or considered a little unprofessional, forgive those of us who were broken by the events of Sunday. We know what this means for our jobs, our industry, the players, the game and society in general. Football is strong and the wider impact of its homecoming through a group of young women cannot be underestimated.

There are many warning people that the opportunity to develop this wonderful sport on the back of this historic victory and moment cannot be missed. They are right. Of course they are. But if there’s one thing I know it’s that people say these things, the players on the pitch, the club staff, the former players who are always on top, they won’t let the moment pass. without fighting.

The FA banned women’s football for 50 years and tried to eliminate the game from existence, but those responsible for the 19-21 failed. Instead, they ensure that the most courageous groups of fighters emerge to defend the game and develop it generation after generation.

They were an educated, smart, physical, resilient, wonderful group of women who would give anything, they would give anything, to see the sport succeed. The group that gave their all to see all the girls got to play a game that shaped so many people on and off the pitch and developed them as important people and members of society in a way that could never be imagined.