GABBY LOGAN: Lionesses are showing that nothing is off limits

Lionesses are heroines showing my daughter’s generation that nothing is off limits to young women, writes GABBY LOGAN

My teenage daughter has been watching the Euro 2022 tournament and, like so many other young women of her generation, she has found it an inspiration. It has shown they can explore and succeed in areas of life and professions which they might have previously thought of as male-dominated and perhaps off limits.

The first time my daughter showed an interest in women’s football was three years ago during the Women’s World Cup when she said all the girls at school were talking about England striker Ellen White.

I remember thinking that such an interest was game-changing in terms of cultural and social attitudes.

Even girls who didn’t like sport had connected with these women role models.

That said, there is still a long way to go.

Ellen White of England celebrates with the fans and family following her teams victory in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 Semi Final match between England and Sweden at Bramall Lane on July 26

Sadly, sexism can still be found everywhere. We’ve witnessed its most bovine form in the last few weeks with some men saying they won’t watch the games on TV. Some have ranted on Twitter, crudely saying, for example, they would prefer to watch paint dry.

My retort is: ‘OK, go on. Watch paint dry.’

But I also feel sorry for such misogynists. How depressing to think they might have young daughters. Do they really want to hold them back in life and prevent them having the opportunity to do the things they want to do? Of course, not all young women want to play or watch football but the high-profile success of the Lionesses is so very symbolic of what should be an equal society.

You’ll note that I call them ‘the Lionesses’. How absurd that it has been suggested that this nickname – rather than ‘the Lions’ – is sexist. Some people are trying to create controversy for no reason.

In fact, ‘the Lionesses’ perfectly describes tomorrow’s finalists. As one caller to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour astutely pointed out, female lions are well-known to be harder working than males and do most of the hunting while males mainly just laze around.

The whole tournament has been so joyous. My passion has always been to give opportunity. I am convinced that women’s sport has been a major instrument in the fight for equality.

Crucially, too, the success of so many women in the London Olympics in 2012 helped inspire other young women.

It’s regrettable that females found fewer chances before, but it’s so good that they have a chance now.

Today, young girls can have football heroes.

Specifically with regard to sport, the buzz from these championships will undoubtedly lead to more facilities for youngsters.

After years of school playing fields being ripped up, pitches and other areas will now be constructed to meet the demand.

Sarina Wiegman celebrates with Alex Greenwood of England during the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 Quarter Final match between England and Spain at Brighton & Hove Community Stadium on July 20, 2022

Of course, this will have a knock-on effect on the health of a nation where more than half of children in some areas are overweight or obese by the time they start secondary school at age 11.

Never underestimate the power of endorphins released when playing sport and which help boost health and vitality.

What youngsters are also learning from the Lionesses are the values of team work and camaraderie.

As for the Lionesses’ chances in the final today, the result is hard to call. Winning is in Germany’s DNA. England must start quickly or they will be punished. It will be tight but England can win.

Alexandra Popp of Germany Women celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 2-1 during the UEFA Women’s Euro England 2022 Semi Final match between Germany and France at Stadium mk on July 27

In manager Sarina Wiegman, the team has someone with the unique ability to be both emotional enough that she cares, but who also is cool enough to make decisions without feeling sentimental. Her players all adore her.

I have always said that women’s football doesn’t have to be the same as men’s. It’s played at a different pace. Women pass the ball and go on runs differently.

A colleague who directs TV coverage for the top men’s football matches says his camera team have to adapt the way they film games. He explained that women’s football doesn’t follow the same patterns of play of men’s football.

Jill Scott of England talks to the media during a press conference at The Lensbury on July 29, 2022 in Teddington, England

With men, there is a predictable way that attacks develop. With women, it’s much less predictable and they don’t follow a metronomic build-up – with more speculative attempts on goal. This makes it very exciting.

There are fewer fouls, fewer yellow cards and little rolling around on the ground and all that kind of stuff. Women’s football has a purity to it.

I profoundly hope it retains these lovely qualities because there has been such a special family feel to the whole tournament – a lovely atmosphere among crowds at matches in Sheffield, Milton Keynes and all the other stadia across the country.

Recently, I was talking to a young woman who had watched a women’s game in Yorkshire and a man had shouted abuse from the touchline at one player, saying she was overweight.

An unpleasant and unforgivable insult, certainly. But it proved that women’s football had arrived and men were taking notice. Welcome to equality!

But above all, my daughter’s generation now know that nothing is off limits to them.

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