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‘Everyone’s buzzing’: sights set on cementing Lionesses’ legacy | England women’s football team

The morning after the ecstasy of the night before, and the seismic roar of England’s victorious Lionesses continued to reverberate across the nation, with calls to ensure that their legacy is assured.

The immensity of their achievement may not have sunk in yet, but the new European champions, sunglasses much in evidence, took their party from Wembley’s pitch to Trafalgar Square in style.

Confetti cannon, giant sparklers and a 7,000-strong crowd, many waving flags reading “Home”, cheered as the squad linked arms, belted out Sweet Caroline, and once more held aloft the coveted trophy that could – that should – turbo-charge the women’s game.

To those gathered in central London on Monday to celebrate England’s first major football trophy in 56 years, there was the undeniable sense that the narrative had changed, and irreversibly so.

As the long-serving England squad player Jill Scott told the crowd: “Everyone who has put the shirt on, everybody that believed in women’s football, we just wanted to be ‘football’. And, hopefully now that’s how it’s perceived to be around the world.”

“I don’t think they realise what they’ve done, yet,” said Lady Sue Campbell, the director of women’s football at the Football Association (FA). “I think it will take some time for them to realise the legacy they have created here.”

Ella Toone, who scored England’s first goal in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Germany, appealed to fans who had cheered on the Lionesses this summer to now come and support them at Women’s Super League games.

“I think a lot of people have fallen in love with women’s football this summer,” she said. “That’s what we set out to do. So hopefully the crowds that we’ve had … we can get into our grounds at club level and some more fans at the stadium to be on the journey with us.”

Plaudits rained down on England’s champions, who were immediately granted Freedom of the City of London, and many of them of their home towns and cities too.

But there was no traditional bus parade through London, or any announcement of a Downing Street reception for the squad. Boris Johnson was attending the funeral of former first minister of Northern Ireland, Lord Trimble, then departing for a family holiday on Wednesday, so any reception is unlikely this week.

Questions were raised over why Johnson, unlike his German counterpart, chancellor Olaf Scholz, was not at Wembley to see England’s 2-1 victory over Germany after extra time.

As Scholz visited the German team in their dressing room, Johnson was many miles away watching on TV at his countryside retreat of Chequers with his family. It was left to the foreign secretary – and leadership candidate – Liz Truss, and the culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, to represent the UK government at this glorious moment of England sporting history.

Asked if Johnson could not be bothered to support the Lionesses from Wembley, his spokesperson said the prime minister had supported the team and watched from home, and that the public “would judge the government on the support it has given to women’s football.”

“This is a government that has stood steadfast in terms of supporting the women’s game and investing in it,” they added.

While no extra bank holiday is expected to be created to mark the achievement of the England women’s football team, Downing Street did hint that the squad could be lined up for honours in recognition of their success.

If these were snubs, the Lionesses seemed not to notice, with the focus and determination so evident on the pitch now being deployed to the serious business of partying.

On the Trafalgar Square stage, they danced and sang along karaoke-style to River Deep – Mountain High, and Freed from Desire, with its lyrics changed by the rapturous crowd to “Beth Mead’s on fire” in honour of Mead’s Golden Boot award.

Leah Williamson, the England captain and Arsenal defender, admitted what most suspected when she said: “We’ve partied more than we’ve played football in the last 24 hours.”

Manchester City’s Chloe Kelly, scorer of the winning goal, whose celebratory tearing off of her top to reveal her sports bra has been hailed an iconic and empowering feminist moment, said she had not stopped dancing. “My feet just keep going. Everyone’s absolutely buzzing. We had a good night last night, but some of us were a bit worse for wear this morning.”

Toone had a congratulatory tweet from the England men’s team captain, Harry Kane. “Yeah, I taught him that,” she told the cheering crowd.

Even Sarina Wiegman, the Dutch coach and the first to lead two different countries to victory in the Euro finals, allowed herself a little jig on stage.

The BBC said 17.4 million people watched the final, making it the most watched programme this year, breaking all records for women’s football in the UK and making the team household names.

The challenge now is to convert this enthusiasm and interest into tangible positives for the women’s game. Along with better opportunities for schoolgirls, the sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, said: “We need to make sure there’s commercial opportunities and sponsorship as well.

“It all snowballs together. So, when we get higher viewership, it means there’s more commercial opportunity for the women in sport, which means they have that greater visibility. And also we should never underestimate the power of events like this, in inspiring future generations, the future sportswomen.”

The FA chief executive, Mark Bullingham, said: “I think it will really turbo-charge everything we have been doing in the women’s game.”

Nev Walters, who was with his three daughters in the Trafalgar Square crowd – his eight-year-old, Tess, propped on his shoulders – said it was important for them to see a team that had achieved so much.

“I wanted them to see what can be done,” said Walters, who was astonished to learn only days ago that women weren’t allowed to play on FA-associated grounds until 1971. “I wanted them to be able to see something they can aspire to.”

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