Women's World Cup 2015: England's Lionesses leave us bereft…but not angry enough

Fans vandalised German cars when West Germany knocked England's men's side out in 1990, yet not a single Nissan Micra was harmed on Thursday morning

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It's scandalous how little we as a nation care about women's football, isn't it?  25 years ago, after West Germany had inflicted World Cup heartbreak on us, hundreds of VWs and BMWs were vandalised.  Yesterday, following Wednesday's cruel exit at the hands of Japan: not even a keyed Nissan Micra.

Leaving aside the absence of mindless mechanical mutilation, England Women had a wonderful tournament.  After a nervy beginning, the team blossomed.  To this untrained eye, we had decent shape and discipline allied to tactical flexibility, flair and athleticism.  It led to a virtuous circle of results on the pitch, confidence and togetherness in the ranks, and a genuine connection with supporters.  Coach Mark Sampson and his backroom team deserve all the plaudits they get.

And who didn’t love the cut-out-and-keep letter asking bosses to grant employees a lie-in after last night’s semi-final?  No-one, that’s who!  The FA would do well to apply this sort of thinking to other areas if it truly wants to (horrible, corporate word alert) ‘engage’ fans.

 

The mood as it grew reminded me on a smaller scale of London 2012.  Now, as then, unheralded sporting heroes have emerged beaming but squinting into the white light of their new-found fame.  As fans, we’ve embraced them whole-heartedly, delighting in and sharing their successes, desperately wishing that all sport could be like this rather than the usual diet of grubby, Premier League-era cynicism.

Yet it would be a disservice bordering on patronising platitude to suggest that this feel-good factor is all the Lionesses have brought.

Yes, they’ve been a breath of fresh air.  But we mustn’t confuse their wide-eyed likeability with naivety.  You only have to witness one of Jade Moore’s trademark reducers in midfield, or Steph Houghton’s ‘clever’ going to ground to make sure the ref noticed the foul for the penalty against Japan, or Lucy Bronze’s near-rugby tackle on the Norwegian opponent to whom she’d given the ball away.  These are players every bit as professional and worldly as their counterparts in the men’s game.  And when I say professional, I mean in their approach to the sport as opposed to their pay packets.

Presumably, the hope at the FA is that the Lionesses’ exploits in Canada will kick-start a revolution in the women’s game.  As ever, it’s at grass roots where this aim will be achieved.  Right now the next generation of Laura Bassetts, Fara Williamses and Jill Scotts should be pestering their parents for a football.  What will the FA do to harness this swell in enthusiasm?  What can be done about the relative lack of women coaches?  Two-thirds of head coaches in Canada were men, and globally only 7% are women, according to the lovely FIFA.  Why don’t Manchester United have a women’s team, for Christ’s sake?!

There’s clearly still a ton of work to be done.

Personally, I won’t be satisfied until we care enough to break stuff when we lose.

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