BIRMINGHAM – “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming, football’s coming home”.
The song is an integral part of football-mad England’s sporting culture, but its lyrics only materialised on Sunday, when the country’s Lionesses roared to victory in the final of the Women’s European Championship, beating old rivals Germany 2-1.
But it was not just the Uefa tournament record of 87,192 fans that witnessed the Lionesses’ feat at Wembley. Up and down the country, fans tuned in, including about 300 who had gathered to catch a live screening on a 3.5-metre screen from picnic mats and foldable chairs at Dartmouth Park near Birmingham.
In Singapore, the sport is valued for its ability to draw a following from all races and walks of life. It is no different here in England, with the crowd comprising fans of all ages and ethnicities.
Donning England jerseys and armed with flags, they showed their support for the home team, cheering players on whenever they had goal-scoring opportunities.
The tension was palpable as the score remained 1-1 going into extra time, but Chloe Kelly’s goal in the 110th minute to reclaim the lead for England was met with cheers of jubilation and relief.
They endured an anxious wait to see if that was enough and as the match wound down, the excitement was palpable as fans began to stand and wave their flags enthusiastically.
When the final whistle finally sounded, they erupted in cheers, before the event host led them in the singing of iconic tunes like Three Lions and Sweet Caroline.
Although Lionesses fans Junic Kabunza and Rachel Doneelly were unable to get tickets to the final at Wembley, they were glad to be able to soak in the atmosphere of watching the match with other fans.
Kabunza, 46, said: “This is very good for women’s football, it’s a big step. It’s been underrated over the years, but they’ve managed to make something happen for the first time since 1966.”
With the support shown at this year’s Euro, the healthcare support worker believes this could signal a new dawn for women’s football.
She said: “Hopefully now everyone will start looking at women’s football in the same eye as they do for men’s football. People may not have been interested before, but after this, they can see it’s equal in the way they play and tactics. I hope there is better promotion with what they do with the women’s game.”