Although it took years, women’s football finally has started to take off in England. We could say that it was time—because if there is a Premier League for men, why not have a strong championship for women as well? It has taken many years of work to get the FA Women’s Super League to where it is now.
I remember, maybe ten years ago, when I talked with a few players who were already playing on the English national team as well as their club team. Everyone had a day job to pay the bills, and only after came football, played for the love of it rather than as a profession.
The fact that the American team had become more and more famous in England also influenced people’s opinion of women’s football, since everyone got to know Mia Hamm and Hope Solo, not to mention Megan Rapinoe, leading the current generation.
Results didn’t lag far behind; the English national team won a bronze medal in the 2015 World Cup. At that time, it had been years since the men’s team was on the podium, so the focus shifted to the women and the sponsors began to take interest in the clubs where the players were raised.
Receiving increasingly more attention, in 2019 the Women’s Super League acquired a multi-million sponsorship from Barclays Bank, and from here the only way was up. Finally, the women’s matches could be played in Wembley and teams had the chance to attract more famous footballers from other countries too. This is how the strongest women’s football championship in the world was born.
Amid growing interest, the private lives of footballers became a focal point. In America, it wasn’t new that a woman playing for the national team came out, and in 2019 a moment from the World Cup stirred the waters in England too. Who doesn’t remember the picture of Magdalena Eriksson kissing Pernille Harder when Sweden beat Canada and made it to the top eight?
“I didn’t know that there was a photographer there. At first, I didn’t even know about the photo. It was just a quick kiss after the match, which was usual other times too. This time there was a camera there, one thing led to another, and the photo went viral, and we got many—mostly positive—comments”, said Harder in a later interview.
Recognizing the opportunity that they had after the World Cup, they have stood by the LGBTQ+ community ever since and, on their own platforms or through other media outlets, they try to help young people who are in difficult situations due to their sexual orientation.
After Magda, Pernille also signed for Chelsea for a record sum, and since then both have strengthened the blue team. Among the teammates, we can also find other players who are openly out lesbians, like Fran Kirby or Bethany England.
On the Arsenal women’s team, you don’t have to look far either. There have been several couples who played together in past years.
Vivianne Miedema and Lisa Evans both strengthened the London red team until 2021 when Evans was loaned out to West Ham.
Leah Williamson and Jordan Nobbs, both from the English national team, had been suspected of living together as a couple for years, but it became clear from Instagram posts during quarantine.
Beth Mead and Danielle Van De Donk were the most well-known couple on the Arsenal team until 2021 when Danielle transferred to Lyon. Although we haven’t seen them play together since, when time allows, they cheer each other on from the stands.
We can’t forget Manchester City, where Jill Scott, for example, is one of the most experienced players. Also, Vicky Losada, who came to City from Barcelona, plays here. Last, but not least, I have to mention the 2019 UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Award winner, Lucy Bronze, who strengthens the team with her partner Kiera Walsh.
The list could be much longer than this since more and more players are coming out and not hiding anymore. There are still prejudices and hurtful comments, but support for women’s football is growing, as well as acceptance, which provides a sense of security for anyone preparing to come out.
Translated by Amy Soto