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  • Writer's pictureLotte Wubben-moy

a playground full of Lionesses



When I was seven I would walk in the door from school and immediately leave again to go and play football in the street. I would simply shout downstairs to my mum that I was off out to play and fly out the door. She knew where I was, two streets over in our small neighbourhood in Bow. I would always return a couple of hours later, five friends and two grazed knees the richer.


I look back and can’t help but think how lucky I was to have found my place growing up. Football was part of my identity, it helped me find a clear path in one of the biggest cities in the world. I think I’d have been pretty lost without it. I learnt so much about the complexities of modern society and of the person I would become, during those games in the streets. The jostling for who would play in goal, what was defined as a foul (and what often wasn’t), and the fighting for my place. I grew in confidence and motivation to constantly improve and it was incredibly empowering to hold my own against all the boys (not that I would have ever considered that at the time).


I do however remember thinking ‘all the other girls in the local area are crazy not to join in playing with us.’ I couldn’t understand it. Why didn’t they want to earn the respect of other local kids our age? Or have the chance to make friends with kids from all over the area? In hindsight, I am sure many girls would have walked past us wishing they had the confidence to play along too.

Stories of battling to play reverberate around our Lionesses changing room: from playing in boys' teams to starting up our own teams, to travelling continents to find adequate girls' coaching, this was an experience many of us have lived and a battle we have all fought. It has shaped us, but we want better for the future.


Football has given me so much and I feel indebted to ensure it gives as much, if not more, to others. And that is exactly why we 23-Lionesses put pen to paper, writing to the Prime Minister in demand of equality. We were determined to ensure every young girl across the nation has equal access to football when they go to school. To ensure that our European Championship win could leave a legacy past last summer’s blurry few days of celebration and hoarsely signing it's coming home in Trafalgar square.


I never for one moment thought it was possible to become a professional footballer all those years ago. No sooner would I have believed you if you’d said I’d be writing letters to the Prime Minister. But I’m part of a generation who knows no end to our dreams. We dreamt of becoming European champions. We harbour dreams for this summer’s World Cup. And we also dream of a time when girls watch the WSL on a Sunday afternoon and run into school on a Monday morning ready for their shooting drills, emulating their heroes, dreaming themselves, and dreaming with no limits. This is another victory we now believe we have achieved. And perhaps it will grow to become our greatest ever victory. We will do everything in our power to ensure that this is the case.


As I grew up the street was traded for real pitches. The football teams I was part of moved predominantly outside of the M25. This meant that the once-post-school run around the corner was replaced by an ever-growing dependence on my privilege; my mum would drive me to training three or four times a week, often taking along other girls from the local area with us. We could afford the many and frequent team payments, new boots, and match fees. And most importantly I always had my parents’ full support. But I know there will be so many girls out there who are not so lucky. Having witnessed it first hand, I know this necessity to travel has already ended so many young players’ careers in London and perhaps stopped many more from ever beginning. This is one of the reasons I so strongly believe in the need for girls’ football at every school across the nation.


Our letter and lobbying reached the ears of those most powerful within the country. As of today's news from Number 10, millions of girls in schools across the nation will now finally have equal access to football at school. They will be able to do what their male classmates have been able to do for years: play football at school.


Picture a playground full of young girls kicking footballs around in London and pick out a future Lauren James. A playground in Cumbria, pick out that future Georgia Stanway. A playground in Wigan, who is the future Ella Toone? Imagine how many future Lionesses you could pick out in every playground across the nation with every school now offering equal access to football. Well, that is now the reality the Lionesses squad of 2022 dreamt of. But the victory is so much greater than that, because many don’t play football dreaming of a professional career. It's the camaraderie, the adrenaline, and the endorphins that I felt as a young girl. It is the teamwork, the social networking, and the lifelong friends made on the pitch. It is the beautiful game, that I know so well.


By making girls' football more accessible, we have opened a crucial door for the growth of women’s football as a whole. And if we want to look at our Lionesses and see a team that represents the whole nation, I believe this is one among many key steps to ensuring our national team becomes more diverse, stronger, and more successful many years into the future.


Long live street football. I’ll forever be indebted. Let Girls Play,

LWM


(as seen on bbcsport )


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6 Comments


FC SE7EN
FC SE7EN
May 31, 2023

congrats on the call up! love your style on/off the pitch...too. all the best

fc7

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peterbriers
Mar 09, 2023

This is fantastic news, the work the team and yourself are doing is brilliant and it's so refreshing to see the teams dedication to ensuring that will be a lasting legacy. It would be good to hear thoughts on how attitudes can be addressed as I feel although of course funding will help that it also needs a change in mindset and attitude. My daughter (now 11) started playing football 3 years ago, and had since wanted to do a chance to play at school. At the start of the school year she moved up to senior school and her PE experience has been shocking. Girls treated differently to boys when playing the same sports, not being given the same…

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yanjinru0827
Mar 09, 2023

I'm a fan from China, this is the most heartening and uplifting article I've seen this year. Last July, when I saw the news that lioness had won the Euro I burst into tears. I couldn't stop myself from watching the replay of the final match and the moment Chloe Kelly kicked the ball in. And the video clip of lionesses singing "it's coming home"? I must've watched it for a hundred times. And the ecstasy and joy on your face is just unforgettable to us fans. Your success has not only inspired fans in England but the whole world, especially where girls do not and will not have the support and opportunity to play football, like in China. What…


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hannamroberts
Mar 08, 2023

Huge thank you to our lionesses ❤️

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m.hartmann1582
Mar 08, 2023

couldn't be prouder!

you once handed me your security badge after the CL game against Wolfsburg - that was one of those moments that i'll cherish for a long time. it made me feel like my dream (although it's not playing pro football) wasn't unreachable and gave me confidence and motivation to go after it. that badge hangs next to my desk now to remind me that nothing is impossible. thank you for that and happy international women's day!! ♡

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