As a girl, I dreamed of covering women’s football. Now it’s a reality

It’s been a long journey, but here we are, in 2022, with the European Women’s Championship about to start in England at Old Trafford – and it’s my job to write about it. When I grew up, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, this seemed like an impossible dream.

Back then, women’s football and women in football were simply not visible. No matter how much time I devoted to learning, analyzing, writing, and being consumed by the game, thinking about a career in the sport at a young age – however that may be – never seemed like a viable choice.

Related: Women’s Euro 2022: Our writers predict the winners and surprises

So when I was asked to write about my emotions when the tournament was about to start, I honestly didn’t know where to start. It’s so hard to describe how I’m feeling right now, on the eve of a European Championship at home. This is a small problem for a writer – my whole job is literally finding the words. But at this particularly poignant moment in my career they are hard to come by. But I will do my best.

My journey in journalism is far from linear. I’m certainly not the only one in the role football has played in my life. For as long as I can remember, sport has guided, elevated and influenced me in ways beyond what happens on the field. It’s part of my identity. It gave me a tribe to be a part of in a world that I sometimes struggled to belong.

In the last 20 years, the entire landscape has completely changed. The last time England hosted the Euro, in 2005, many were unaware that the tournament was taking place. Held in the northwest of the country, Hope Powell’s part-time team was talented, with players like Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey, Fara Williams and Alex Scott. He saw 17-year-old Karen Carney break into the international scene, but it would still be a long time before the sport really took hold.

London 2012 changed the playing field for women’s football in this country, a catalyst for everything that has happened in the sport since. You could feel it in the atmosphere as Team GB beat Brazil in front of over 70,000 at Wembley; remembering that roar when Steph Houghton hit the net still sends shivers down my spine.

It also changed things personally; a moment that changed the trajectory of my career. What started as a hobby and a thirst for knowledge turned into a passion project when my partner Rachel and I started GirlsontheBall.com. Our goal was to bring women’s football to more people and tell the stories of the players who have dedicated their lives to the game both through the written word and in a variety of digital formats.

That “hobby” – I’m a little reluctant to call it that because it was more like a second job worked full-time – has now turned into a full-time career. The growth and popularity of women’s football has seen it turn professional on and off the field, providing opportunities for so many that the teenage self could only dream of. The thoughts I write and the stories I tell are now published biweekly in a national newspaper. No wonder I still have to pinch myself sometimes to remind myself this is real.

Tournaments come and go, each providing its own significant milestone. At Euro 2013, Germany won the title for the eighth time, beating Norway in front of more than 41,000 people in Sweden. It was the first major championship on our site and it brought to an end Powell’s 15-year era in charge of England, which he finished last. Two years later it was our first World Cup abroad, a month traversing Canada from east to west covering the Lionesses’ advance to the semi-finals, only to suffer heartbreak against Japan with a Laura Bassett own goal in the 92nd minute.

Back at the 2017 European Championship, we spent the summer swept by a sea of ​​oranges dancing Links Rechts and accompanying Sarina Wiegman’s Dutch team to the trophy. It was one of those magical underdog stories that only sport can serve. Then came the World Cup in France. England again fell into the semi-final hurdle, but it was a competition that propelled the sport further into the hearts and minds of fans. I fully believe that the privilege of experiencing all these moments first hand, the ups and downs and everything in between, has developed me into the way I understand and write about the game.

Related: Goalkeepers in women’s football – and what is fair criticism?

And so we come to Euro 2022, my fifth international tournament and one in my own backyard. The words I choose are: surreal, exciting, full of promise and sometimes, to be honest, a life-threatening prospect (in a good way). It has the potential to launch this game into a different stratosphere, visible to the hundreds of thousands who will show up in stadiums and the millions who will have played it on their TV screens around the world.

Over the next three weeks we will see the best talent this sport has to offer in our fields – Ada Hegerberg, Vivianne Miedema, Pernille Harder, Lauren Hemp; the list is endless – creating priceless memories to last a lifetime. The opening game between England and Austria, against a sold-out Old Trafford and a packed Wembley final, are once again those unfathomable moments not so long ago. As I sit there, taking it all in, writing and creating for my work, I will remember that young woman who, because of this game, saw her dreams come true.

talking points

Goal Power Exhibition: If you’re in Brighton for a match in the next three weeks, be sure to get in on the “Goal Power” at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. This fascinating exhibit tells the stories of some gaming legends, past and present, who defied the rules to play the sport and struggled to level the playing field.

Wafcon starts with a bang: The African Cup of Nations kicked off in Morocco with the hosts earning an opening night victory over Burkina Faso. South Africa beat Nigeria while Botswana, Tunisia and Senegal all had comfortable scores in the first set of group stage games. Goals, dancing and celebrations galore will be something to keep an eye out for next month.

The opening ceremony of the Wafcon before the match between Morocco and Burkina Faso in Rabat.

The opening ceremony of the Wafcon before the match between Morocco and Burkina Faso in Rabat. Photography: Jalal Morchidi/EPA

New Zealand will host the inaugural playoff: FIFA has announced a first playoff tournament for the 2023 World Cup. Hamilton and Auckland will host the intercontinental competition from February 17-23 next year for the final three spots in the final summer event.

recommended view

Refilwe Tholakele from Botswana dispatched this fine curling effort in his team’s 4-2 victory over Burundi. Meanwhile, the English Grace Clinton showed all her class with this turn and finish skillful as his team competed in the Under-19 Euro.

Still want more?

Jonathan Liew anticipates the Euro, arguing that it is the jewel of the British sporting summer.

Spain took a devastating blow to the best player in the world, Alexia Putellas, suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury just before the tournament.

The Guardian has launched a new women’s football podcast for the Euro, hosted by Faye Currathers. You can listen to the first episode here.

Alex Morgan scored twice as the USWNT began their World Cup and Olympics qualifying campaign.

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