Sports FOOTBALL Inside the lionesses' quest to make the girls play

Inside the lionesses’ quest to make the girls play


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OOn Monday, England centre-back Lotte Wubben-Moy dove into the aisle of the team’s bus on its way from the Euro 2022 victory celebration in Trafalgar Square. A 23-year-old man was on a mission.

“I don’t know if it was the energy of being in London with people in front of the National Portrait Gallery calling out our names as we danced in front of them, but then it was a catalyst for me. go tell it to everyone and go to Leah [Williamson, the captain] and Sue [Campbell, the director of women’s football at the Football Association] say, “We need to do something now.”

The result was a letter signed by all 23 players on the team that won the team’s first major trophy. It was addressed to Conservative leader candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, urging whoever becomes prime minister to ensure that every student in the school has access to football in PE.

Celebrations in Trafalgar Square that spurred Lotte Wubben-Moy into action. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

It stated: “Currently, only 63% of girls can play football in PE classes. The reality is that we inspire young girls to play football only to have so many of them go to school and not be able to play. This is something we all experienced as children. We were often stopped from playing. So we formed our own teams, traveled around the country and, no matter what, just kept playing football.”

Truss and Sunak responded, but neither promised to increase the figure to 100%, with Truss pledging to “investigate what is preventing schools from providing the recommended minimum of two hours of PE per week” and Sunak promising to “tighten accountability”.

Wubben-Moya’s motivation was to turn words into actions. “That’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while,” she says. “I’m like, ‘Let’s go. Let’s get on with it. Let’s make it tangible, make it something we can actually feel and see, not just words.” “Make the pride of the nation”, “bring joy to the nation”, what does it really look like? And how can we do it?

“It has a lot of moving parts. There were many politicians at Wembley. They are here in good weather when everything is going well; they’re not here at Borehamwood, they’re not here at City Academy when we play Sunday night at 7pm. We want to see more brands, more partners, more people involved in the game for the long term, not just for the good times.”

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. England players want the next prime minister to take action. Composition: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

It is important that politicians do not use them for PR moves. “The Secretary of State for Education invited us to come to Downing Street,” says Wubben-Moy. “When I received this invitation, I thought: “Oh, sick, people are listening.” But are they going to just invite us in, make it a PR stunt, and then say they’ve made a change? The reality is that this will not change overnight.

“We asked for a long-term project. This is something that will require a lot of development time, a lot of investment and a lot of thinking. This secretary of state may not be there when Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak comes in. So our meeting with them is literally empty. And in Holland Sarina [Wiegman, England’s manager] they said they call it “gebakken lucht”, which literally means “baked air”. It’s just hot air.

“It will take more than a meeting, it will take more than one conversation to actually make a difference and really do something for the future. We really want it to be meaningful.”

The message is simple: “We want to remove all barriers that exist for girls playing football. Physical barriers, social barriers – culturally we need to change something – but also psychological barriers.”

The psychological part is very important. More than a third of women don’t exercise because they’re worried about how their skin looks, according to a study done on behalf of Venus, which launched the Move Your Skin campaign, for which Wubben-Moy is an ambassador. their skin. commented on their shortcomings and almost half said they would feel more confident in their bodies if they were presented with more attractive images of women playing sports.

“A third of young girls do not play sports, do not move, because they take care of the skin. For me, it’s just crazy,” says Wubben-Moy. “It’s social, it’s cultural. We improve it ourselves. If we are going to honor our girls or boys in the future, we need to change something now. We must make society a place in which they should live.

“If we do not change a lot in society, I do not want to have children. I’m worried about those with small children because we need to make the world a place we can be proud of. Sport is a very, very, very small side of things, but it has a big, big impact outside of the sports world.”

Lotte Wubben-Moy
Lotte Wubben-Moy says: “A third of young girls do not play sports, do not move, because they take care of their skin. For me, it’s just crazy.” Photo: Dove

There is a culture of gratitude in women’s football in England where players have to take crumbs off the table and settle for the bare minimum. Did winning the Euro help the players become more confident in their votes?

“How is it in English that we are so polite?” says the Arsenal defender, who is still trying to count his Euro win, can’t articulate his feelings after the final whistle and hasn’t quite regained his voice yet. “We are so grateful. ‘Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot.’ No, tear it up, we need to rewrite it. Whether we won on Sunday or not, we still had the right to speak for change, we still had a platform.

“We really needed to win, and okay, that’s great, but even if we didn’t, I feel like a woman footballer who comes out every week, every weekend, we fight for our clubs, we fight for our country on the field, we are role models. And if we, like these role models, feel empowered, then the message that is sent to young girls, young women, boys and men is that “you are worthy, you are worthy of it, and you can use whatever you want.” “. what you have achieved or what you have not achieved in order to fight for something more, for yourself and other people.

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