Premium: England Has Its Own 1999
Women's soccer takes over England as the Lionesses win Euro 2022 on home soil
LONDON — The comparison first hit me on Tuesday night, not long before England’s semifinal with Sweden, when I was outside Bramall Lane in Sheffield, and the bus carrying the England women’s national team happened to arrive near where I was standing.
As I observed the scene of the home fans surrounding and serenading the bus with cheers, one thing in particular stood out: The players inside the bus were shooting cellphone videos of the spectacle just as much as the supporters were turning their cameras on the team.
All-encompassing national fervor is new to the Lionesses, who have long toiled in obscurity compared to their men’s counterparts. And it made me think back to the same thing happening with the U.S. women’s national team players before the first game of the 1999 World Cup. As their bus made its way up the New Jersey Turnpike to what would be a sold-out Giants Stadium, it slowly dawned on the USWNT that the overwhelming traffic was there for them.
It’s not that women’s soccer was totally absent from English culture. After all, the surprise hit film Bend It Like Beckham (2002) was literally about a women’s soccer team in London. But if you recall, 1) a major plot line was about Jess (Parminder Nagra), whose family didn’t want her to be playing the sport, and 2) “Success” for young women’s players meant earning a scholarship to play college soccer in the U.S. (since England didn’t have anything remotely like it).
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