Pride at England achievement
Darren Moss, the Girls & Women's Football Development Officer at Norfolk County FA, attended the European Championship final last week.Here is his report of his Euro experience, which saw Germany beat England 6-2, a scoreline which didn't reflect the game.
Darren Moss, the Girls & Women's Football Development Officer at Norfolk County FA, attended the European Championship final last week.
Here is his report of his Euro experience, which saw Germany beat England 6-2, a scoreline which didn't reflect the game.
September 10 2009 will long live in my memory. Not only had our England Women's team reached a major Championship Final, I had tickets to the game and was a guest of the team and management on the day.
I travelled with four other Development Officers, all of whom coach or administer within the female game. We met up in Luton on Wednesday evening / Thursday morning - interpretation dependent on your perspective!
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Having met we drove to Heathrow, where we secured a car for our return and then proceeded to Gatwick to fly out to Helsinki. I sat next to Kelly Smith's brother on the flight out, which proved to be the first surreal part of my trip!
First flags spotted at Helsinki were of the German variety and the banter was all good natured, with many pictures being taken and much flag waving taking place. We then went straight to the Olympic Stadium to soak up the atmosphere.
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There was lots of activity in the square outside the stadium, with face painting, singing and mini soccer matches taking place.
Young Finnish female players represented all the countries in the tournament and we found ourselves cheering on 'mini' England in their game against Holland - much to the delight of the girls' families.
The music got louder and a large number of England flags started to accumulate to our left. The hooters and cheers of Eng-er-land were closely matched with a harmonised cry of Deutschland!
In the stadium we were shown to our seats - behind the team's dug out and just in front of the travelling England fans. 16,000 fans in the stadium may have looked sparse on the television but bearing in mind we were in Finland, a long way from home, the 3,000 or so army in red and white did the country proud.
England, in all fairness, did the same on the field of play, sparring and counter punching with the strongest women's team on the planet and proving that they more than deserved their place in the arena.
Pundits may say that England were put to the sword - and as a coach I had to admire the movement and undoubted ability of Grings, Prinz and Garefrekes first hand, a privilege I will never forget - but I am certain the German players will remember how hard they had to play to break the English down.
I must also add that watching the steely determination of the England team - the never-say-die attitude of Fay White in her protective mask, the work rate of Katie Chapman and Karen Carney and the entire squad - as they twice came back against a team that last dropped points in a tournament a decade ago, lifted my spirits and my pride.
When Kelly Smith slotted the second goal for England, the excitement was tangible and the German fans shock at the fact we had come back 'again' was also more than obvious.
Germany's absolute quality and skill was of course evident in the final third, but to witness the step up in class and technical ability of our women's national side was also a delight to witness.
Huge praise must go to Hope Powell for masterminding and steering the national ship over the last decade, the inception of the England youth teams and the links with FA Girls Centres of Excellence has complemented the opportunities through grassroots schools and clubs and in her own words, 'all those involved in the female game should be proud of this achievement'.
Following the game I was invited back to the team hotel for the food and drinks where I stayed to the wee small hours chatting with FA Officials and the squad.
Speaking with Kelly Smith, Alex Scott and the squad after the defeat you may have expected that I would experience a wake not a party, but although the girls were obviously disappointed not to have brought the trophy home I was struck by their team spirit and pride in their achievement.
I was also pleased to hear how much the support of all our girls and women's clubs meant to them and to see all the flags recently signed in Norfolk as part of the Girls & Women's Week of Action displayed in the stadium brought that crashing home.
Supported by the efforts and commitment of the entire women's and girls football community, it will be the likes of Germany who will be looking very closely over their shoulder as the next tournament approaches… Come on England!