Leah Williamson: England success has changed society, not just women’s football

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Leah Williamson knows the Euro 2022 final with Germany is a ‘fairytale fixture’ (Nigel French/PA) (PA Wire)
Leah Williamson knows the Euro 2022 final with Germany is a ‘fairytale fixture’ (Nigel French/PA) (PA Wire)

England captain Leah Williamson has described Sunday’s Euro 2022 final against Germany as a “fairytale fixture” – and one she believes is “not the end of a journey but the start of one”.

The storied football rivalry between the two nations continues with a showdown at a sold-out Wembley.

The Lionesses are looking to secure the first major silverware in their history, while Germany, the competition’s most successful side, are aiming for a ninth Euros title.

Williamson told a press conference: “I think it’s a good narrative for you guys. Obviously it is a fairytale fixture, with the history behind it.

“I think the journey that both of us have been on, you’ve got the two teams who have had the best tournaments in the final, which is the best thing.

“I think this is what we expected, to come up against a team playing their best football, and luckily we’re playing ours.”

Williamson then spoke in broad terms when asked about the magnitude of what it would mean for England to win on Sunday.

I think for every success that we make and for every change of judgement or perception…I think that makes change in society

Leah Williamson

The Arsenal defender said: “I think what we’ve seen in the tournament already is that this hasn’t just been a change for women’s football but society in general, how we’re looked upon, and I think tomorrow is not the end of a journey but the start of one.

“Naturally it’s my job to go out for 90 minutes to play and win, but I think when we look back on this tournament as a whole, we’ve really started something and as I say I think tomorrow is the start of that. I want it to be the start, I want this to be a mark for the future.”

She added: “I’ve only ever been involved in this workplace, in football, but I think in most workplaces across the world women still have a few more battles to face and to try to overcome.

“And I think for every success that we make, and for every change of judgement or perception, or opening the eyes of somebody who views women as somebody with the potential to be equal to her male counterpart, I think that makes change in society.

“I think that’s a powerful message. In a typically male-dominated environment, these strides that we take forward can impact everybody on that wider scale.”

An attendance record for any Euros match, women’s or men’s, could be set tomorrow, and Williamson said: “I think this has felt unachievable for a very long time. The people that have come before me have had to fight.

“I think that’s a nice reflection moment tomorrow, that there will be so many people filling that stadium with an interest in women’s football, that have the opportunity to watch it because its been made available, because not so long ago that wasn’t the case.”

Ten years ago a crowd of 70,000 were at Wembley to watch Great Britain’s women’s team beat Brazil at the London Olympics.

Williamson, who attended that match as a fan, said: “I think tomorrow will be another moment like that. It’s incredible that happened and I think the fall-off afterwards, we hope that’s not what happens after this tournament.

“We can’t have a lack of interest post this tournament because it defeats the object of everything we’ve achieved throughout these last six weeks.”