History | Physical Education

Millions tune in to women’s football triumph

Hard fought: England's Lionesses beat Germany 2-1 in extra time.

Is this another huge step for gender equality? Fans worldwide were stunned by a thrilling showdown at Wembley last night. But will the success of the Euros really change anything? At the final whistle, the winner was women's football. England faced Germany in a sold-out stadium. Millions watched at home. The German coach called it a "football feast". Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp praised the "insane" quality. And superstar Ian Wright said the Euros must leave a "legacy" for girls. A century ago, the FA banned women's football. Fifty years later, the Lionesses played their first international match in front of 400 fans. The 2012 Olympics changed everything. Team GB beat favourites Brazil in front of 70,584, a record crowd. Nine days later, 80,203 turned out to see the US win gold. By 2020, 3.4 million girls and women were playing in England. The BBC says ten times more people watched this year's final compared to 2009. So is this a giant leap forward? The FA now pays men and women the same for international games. Attitudes are changing. "When I was at school", says 42-year-old Sonya Dunn, "a teacher laughed at me because I wanted to play". This month, her sons were "cheering every goal". It is now "normal" for women to play football. But researcher Stacey Pope says this is "not enough to end misogyny". Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels said women are "more emotional" than men. Pope says these views are common. Sam Kerr at Chelsea earns over £400,000, the highest-paid female footballer. Cristiano Ronaldo makes £26.5m. Ladies' football used to be popular. During World War One, female factory workers called munitionettes took up the sport. Their matches attracted huge crowds and led to the 1921 ban. The FA warned that football "is unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged".  That view is ancient history to the Stockport Dynamoes under-12s. Coach Sara Sanders says they watch the Euros and say, "I did that, I can do that".  Is this another huge step for gender equality? Two halves Yes: Women's football has gained millions of new fans and thousands of new players. They bring more energy, excitement and money to the sport, raising its status to the same level as men's football.

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