London (AFP) – London erupted in joy on Sunday, with football fans turning Trafalgar Square into a giant party and some even plunging into its famous fountains to celebrate the England women’s victory at Euro 2022.
More than 87,000 people packed Wembley Stadium, a new record for a men’s or women’s European Championship final, while another 7,000 turned out for Trafalgar Square, where the match was shown on two giant screens, to support the Lionesses against Germany.
Rightly watched by the four famous lion statues in the square, fans rode a rollercoaster of emotions as England scored first, were pushed back, before finally triumphing in extra time.
“I think they’re wonderful,” Maggie Maybury, 67, from London, told AFP in the fan zone.
“Everyone is going to love them. They will only be the darlings. It’s going to be good for women’s sports.
The 2-1 win secured the England women’s team their first-ever major trophy.
Kirsty Carey, 33, from London, said the historical players were “a real inspiration to young girls across the country.
“It’s a huge, huge stepping stone for English football, women’s football,” she told AFP.
The competition captured the imagination of young and old, boys and girls. Everyone from Queen Elizabeth II to Prime Minister Boris Johnson said they hoped the triumph would be the springboard for young girls to get into the sport.
“He’s a fantastic example for my two daughters,” Luke Ederson, father of a 2 and 6-year-old from Yorkshire in northern England, told AFP.
– ‘The summer of memories’ –
Fans brought color to the capital a few hours before kick-off, both around the stadium and in the city centre.
Those lucky enough to have Tube trains packed full of tickets to Wembley Stadium, chanting ‘it’s coming home’ and ‘we’re the famous Lionesses and we’re off to Wembley’.
Three hours before the 5:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. GMT) kick-off, Wembley Way was already a sea of red and white, with many supporters sporting the cross of St George on their cheeks.
The family atmosphere around the famous stadium was in stark contrast to last year’s men’s final at the same venue between England and Italy, when thousands of drunken fans forced their way into the ground without tickets.
A strictly alcohol-free zone on Wembley Way was enforced to prevent similar scenes, but the presence of large numbers of children meant a repeat still seemed highly unlikely.
Over half a million spectators attended matches, an average of over 16,000 per game and more than double the total for the 2017 competition, which itself set a new record.
In addition to increased media coverage, the games benefited from relatively inexpensive tickets, attracting families who may not have been able to afford to attend the men’s games.
As a result, the stadiums rang to a different sound, with many families and children filling the stands.
“It’s a lot more fun for families than for men’s games. It would be much more territorial, more complicated,” said Scott Sharpe, 35, who traveled from Leeds in northern England with his children Olivia, 9, and Lukas, 5.
The Lionesses’ impressive run to the final, which saw them beat Norway 8-0 in the group stage and Sweden 4-0 in the semi-finals, drew huge TV ratings and best wishes from stars sports, celebrities and executives.
The team had ‘already created a summer of fantastic memories for millions of us’, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote before kick-off.
“You can see it in the sold-out stadiums, in the crowded fan zones, in the little kids dancing madly to Sweet Caroline and the viewers who saw the records crumble almost as completely as Sweden’s defense in the semi-finals. , ” he added.
This semi-final was watched by an average of 7.9 million viewers, a figure almost certainly exceeded on Sunday.