Just over a year ago, in the final of the Women’s Euros, football fans witnessed an ‘instantly iconic’ moment. It came after Chloe Kelly scored the winning goal for England (aka ‘the Lionesses’), giving them their first-ever victory in the competition.
It was a massive moment historically speaking, and the male equivalent of Chloe Kelly would have been forgiven for sliding across the grass on their knees, after executing a triple somersault and possibly a back flip.
Instead, Kelly’s reaction was to whip off her shirt and run across the pitch in her sports bra, pursued by her ecstatic team members. There was such pure joy in the spontaneity of this, even the right-wing press in Britain could not bring themselves to scold her.
The strait-laced Daily Mail, dependably conservative on most matters, hailed a simple act of exuberance that provided ‘the feminist image of the decade.'
Not to diminish in any way the joy of the gesture, it ought to be pointed out that it was not the first time this kind of celebration had happened. Brandi Chastain had done it way back in 1999 after scoring the winning penalty for the USA. Given that Kelly was a mere toddler back then, Chastain is unlikely to accuse her of intellectual property theft.
The final of the Women’s World Cup is nigh, and by now there must be few people in the world, whether they call the game football or soccer, who are oblivious to the fact.
Women’s football has exploded into view as the freshness and skill of the players finally win recognition. Even the antipodean location underlines the infectiousness of the enthusiasm.
After all, Australians – co-hosting the competition with New Zealand – have never been that enamoured of the game per se, let alone the women’s version. It’s not a question of hostility; just a national preference for cricket.