Women’s football is changing minds and hearts
If you’ve been following my blogs, you’ll recognise that I’ve been relishing the Women’s Euros, going to group games at Brentford and Brighton, seeing England’s mesmerising 8-0 victory over Norway, tenacious 2-1 win over Spain, and triumphant 4-0 semi-final win over Sweden. I’ve been moved to tears on many occasions by the supporters and the magnificent football. I’m so proud of every single woman who is taking part as well as those that trailblazed the way.
As we were driving back from Sheffield after the semi-final on Tuesday, we listened to TalkSport. As a mother of four boys and part of a football mad family, I’ve frequently listened to (and often switched off!) the inane banter and arguments that football supporters enjoy so much. But on Tuesday the discussions and calls about the women’s game were fascinating.
Men as well as women are loving it
What struck me while listening on Tuesday night was the number of men who called in to tell us that they had previously dismissed women’s football as slow, technically not as skilful, and boring BUT now they had totally changed their views. Often negative views are expressed because of ignorance – people hadn’t been to live games or even watched women’s football on the TV, so their judgement was based chiefly on pre-conceptions and unconscious bias that the women’s game would not be as exciting to watch as the men’s. If this tournament helps to create more male allies and helps to nudge people into thinking differently about women’s strength and capabilities in all areas, then it’s real progress. Many women called it to tell us how inspired and proud they were – I’m sure this will lead to higher and more balanced engagement both for the women’s and the men’s game.
Teamwork is the headline for success
Another thing that has really struck me is the emphasis on teamwork – all the players are talking about it, not just the England team. Not taking credit for their individual brilliance but attributing their success to the whole of the team. This was really evident at the end of the semi-final game when Sarina Wiegman and the entire squad and coaching team stood together to celebrate the win. In most of the stories in our Wonder Women book, women told us they were most proud of the teams they had built and how they had helped others in their careers. This just goes to prove how important this is.
Honest and clear leadership
Finally, I’d like to say a word on leadership. Today’s Times had an article on Sarina Wiegman’s honesty and clarity being key to role as manager. Six attributes were highlighted:
- straight talking – understated, honest and knows what she wants from her team
- clear tactical plan – demonstrating clarity of vision, sticking with her plan, but making adjustments when necessary
- in-game management – when the team have stuttered, she responded emphatically (she’s been applauded for her substitutions)
- no fear – the team believes in her plan, and she fosters a culture in which she encourages the team to play with fun and freedom
- empathy – she successfully marries a competitive environment with a real interest in and empathy for people – she may have a steely exterior, but her team love her for her warmth. I also read that if she needs to drop a player or does not select them, she arranges as face-to-face meeting – very different from receiving a text message to say you’re not in the team!
- winning mentality – understanding of the joy winning will not only bring to individuals, the team, and the whole nation
Come on England
The final on Sunday at Wembley Stadium is a sell-out (I’ve been unable to get tickets!) and given the TV figures so far, the whole nation will be behind the team. Come on the Lionesses!