As goal celebrations go this one had the lot: pure unabashed joy, daring and exhilaration in spades – and hearts – as it brought the winning not only of a match but a European Nations Final after an amazing and hard-fought tournament.
You could almost hear the male thoughts of a nation aloud ‘So that’s what they wear under their shirts!’ when nearly all was dramatically revealed by England’s goal-scoring heroine Chloe Kelly, as she smashed in the Lionesses winner well into extra-time, whipped off her shirt (to show the Nike logo of course) and inevitably brought the line –‘It’s Coming Home’ to new meaning and heights – at last.
Sweet Caroline rang round Wembley – Sweet Chloe showed the meaning of how to celebrate such an event, supporting sports bra ‘n all.
A few seasons ago in nearby Elche I watched the great Christiano Ronaldo whip his shirt off, whirl it round his big head and hurl it into the crowd. He’d just smashed in the 96th minute injury-time penalty to win the game 2 – 1 for Real Madrid and thus breaking all our stout local hearts.
Poor little Elche had only just come up to La Liga at last (Elche had been in the Spanish Second Division for 30 years), and the bile emitted from the terraces raged at him manfully displaying his six-pack chest. CR acted as though he’d just won the World Cup – but Chloe’s Show was better by far last Sunday.
For those mouldy oldies of us still around who remember 1966 and all that, there were flashbacks to when our Bobby Moore, iconic England captain held the Jules Rimet World Cup aloft as Wembley and England (Scotland and all the other Celts excepted) rejoiced – well, hey, lads and lasses, that was a long time ago, wasn’t it?
In a dramatic gender-reversal our stalwart ladies finally vanquished the Germans, just like Blond Bobby and the lads did all those years ago, in the process overcoming huge disappointment and setbacks as they did so. Well, now we’re back in the top world rankings – the lasses or lionesses are anyway. Gareth and the lads have got a way to go currently I think?
But hey – this was different, wasn’t it? History was being made before our disbelieving eyes. Somewhere along the line, the goal celebratory lines betwixt the sexes have become blurred, although the hair styles are still different. No bald Nobby’s with missing teeth to scare the opposition, just the de-rigeur ladies pony tails and occasional Alice Band (mind you Man City’s Grealish does that one).
The kit and boots are all still pure Three Lionesses (although probably made in Taiwan), but the main point is that fortunately girls will still be girls and boy, they still looked like the fairer sex. Bring it on…
As a mere man did I embrace the EUFA Womens’ Championship from day one? No, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t. As a football-loving man all my life (I’m a Forest fan dont’cha know, we’ve just been promoted back to the Premier League after 32 years, great stuff), so I was on a slow-burn to support England’s lovely ladies.
Early doors a couple of my obsessive footie-loving scooter group mates asked me if I was going to watch our girls in the group stage, and I thought why not? I was already feeling soccer-starved with weeks to go before the new season, so I tentatively sought refuge (as per normal in the full season) from Corry and East-Enders. As I watched the 8 -1 slaughtering of Norway and five being put past poor Northern Ireland I began to think, chauvinistically of course ‘Hey, John, this lot aren’t bad’.
The football was good, open, honest – and exciting. Sure the tackles went in, but never nastily or cynically and praise the Lord, no writhing or simulating agony which I detest (I blame the Italians from the Sixties).
At last it brought a breath of spring to John’s jaded July eyes and the flowing football up-and-down the field was great. Oh, and no back-chats and arguing with the refs, Cloughie would have loved that. Exciting other matches were also taken in as the tournament unfolded, and oh yes, I got swept all along with it.
The Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman grew on me as the tournament progressed. Here was a female football manageress who looked more like a serious solicitor, but you can see all her proteges adored her.
This Dutch lady’s amazing record shows her England team is unbeaten on her watch with over a hundred goals scored – and only five against, wow! Move over Alex Ferguson et al. And when she finally outwitted the physical, almost-never-losing German Frauleines after extra time she looked so unbelievably happy she even let Prince William and his German mate briefly touch her.
Sarina’s substitutions were perfect, no hesitation in taking star players off and bringing on worthy replacements – as displayed perfectly by those who came on to score vital goals and win the games. I expect our Sarina will now go on to manage our nation in next year’s World Cup, but you can’t help but think Ms Wiegman could do a lot better than some of our existing male managers in The Prem and elsewhere (watch out Gareth, I think I heard a lioness roar).
So as Winston Churchill once said: ‘The nation can allow itself a brief period of rejoicing’. I think somewhere the team are still doing it, bless ‘em and why not – so let’s do it with them.
BTW I’m deliberately not mentioning crude male banter about traditional gender roles going round on the net, shame on us lads as our England ladies did us proud. Thank you, you’ve made our nation proud again!