It is simple to comprehend why Gail Newsham cannot stop smiling as she prepares England’s soccer team for the Women’s World Cup final.
Newsham, who is 70 years old, grew up during a period when women in England were prohibited from playing soccer (here referred to as football) and helped lead a resurgence in the sport once these restrictions were lifted. Now she is preparing to witness Sunday’s game against Spain on television, hoping to see her team win the World Cup.
Newsham, who was already donning her blue England jersey, said, “I’ll be wearing my shirt, having a sausage roll and a glass of champagne.” “I’ve done the same thing at every match, so I’ll do it again on Sunday and just cheer on the girls.”
She will not be lonely.
When the Lionesses take the field, they will be supported by hordes of girls cheering for their heroes, mothers and grandmothers celebrating the progress that has been made since they were denied the opportunity to play the game, and rabid fans — men and women of all backgrounds — hoping that this football-obsessed nation can finally win a World Cup after 57 years of disappointment. England’s only World Cup title was earned by the men in 1966.
If the final of last year’s European Championship is any indication, the majority of the country will be watching. More than 23 million viewers, or roughly 42 percent of the population, watched England’s women defeat Germany on that day.
In a nation struggling under the weight of crippling inflation, a failing health care system, and seemingly endless political bickering, the success of 23 young English women and their Dutch coach was once again a welcome piece of summertime news.
After their contributions to England’s 3-1 semifinal victory over Australia on Wednesday, Lauren Hemp and Alessandra Russo dominated the front pages of newspapers. After the victory, both King Charles III and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak congratulated the team.
“I feel like the Lionesses give us hope — to all of us, boys and girls, women and men,” said Huda Jawad, a feminist and member of the Three Hijabis, a fan group known for their traditional Muslim headscarves. They provide “something to anticipate and be proud of, and they demonstrate that football, like society, can be joyful, egalitarian, optimistic, and that we can have community, friendship, and solidarity.”