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Start of the women's football championship 2022: "The noise of the fans was the best thing today"


68,871 spectators – there was a record at the start of the European Football Championship. The mood was relaxed, the game tough. Impressions from a city where not everyone has noticed that EM is.

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Martin Rickett / dpa

In the Theater of Dreams, the dream of many women footballers, fans of women's football, sponsors and associations came true.

For a long time they have been hoping for more attention, more recognition, more viewers.

And now this: 68,871 fans at a women's European Championship game, 5,000 fewer than expected, but still a European Championship record.

Old Trafford, the "Theatre of Dreams" - there is hardly a place with more football tradition in football.

And on Wednesday it wasn't Paul Pogba, Cristiano Ronaldo or Marcus Rashford on the pitch, but Lucy Bronze, Ellen White and Manuela Zinsberger.

There was a family celebration at the start of the European Championship, the audience structure was significantly more female than at a men's soccer game, and there were more children in the stands.

After just a few minutes, the first La-Ola was running, and shortly thereafter, thousands switched on their mobile phone lights and thus created an artificial starry sky.

"England, England" was shouted through the stadium again and again, and the national anthem was smashed along, all a few octaves higher than in a men's game, but no less impressive.

The quality of the game was rather unimportant for the mood that evening: every half-baked pass by the English women was celebrated.

In the end there was a narrow 1-0 victory for the »Lionesses«.

"It was incredible, the crowd really got behind us," said Georgia Stanway, who won the Player of the Match award.

"The noise from the fans was the best thing today." She hopes that this will now be the standard for the rest of England's games.

Austria's trainer Irene Fuhrmann also spoke of a "fantastic atmosphere".

It is nice to see how women's football has developed.

"The backdrop was unique, I would like women's football to get more stages like this."

But that will not be the case at this European Championship until the final.

The opening game at Old Trafford and the final at Wembley Stadium, where another attendance record for European Championships is set to be set, are the most famous venues.

Otherwise, the games tend to be played in smaller stadiums.

On the other hand: 500,000 tickets were sold for the tournament, significantly more than at the last European Championship.

Hours before kick-off, the atmosphere in downtown Manchester is still subdued.

A fan fest is set up in the Picadley Gardens.

A group of children in school jumpers are standing around a foosball table, the girls in the school class - it's actually the case, no clichés are being rehearsed here - are cavorting in front of a make-up stand.

"Maybe that's a football thing"

Two boys walk by, they're wearing T-shirts despite the light drizzle.

One says to his companion: "I don't know what this is.

It says EURO, maybe that's a football thing.« They have no idea that a European Championship is taking place in their country, in their city.

But you don't stop to learn more either.

The group of Austrians sitting at a table with paper cups is completely different.

The men and women have painted flags on their faces, are wearing Austria shirts, and a chain of flowers in red and white can be seen.

David, 31 years old, came with friends and family from Gnas in Styria.

Most of them are "enthusiastic amateur soccer players, soccer fans and also women's soccer fans".

They hope for a point against favorites England, "but that will certainly be difficult," says David prophetically - although Austria will be close later.

Speed ​​and physicality are of course not as given as with the men, says David.

"But in terms of technique and tactics, there isn't much of a difference."

A little busier at Old Trafford two hours before the game.

An old man with white hair and a Santa Claus beard is walking slowly across the square, wearing an old Manchester United jacket.

But mostly women and families are out and about here, the activities at the festival are tailored to this audience: There are small soccer fields and also, no joke, a "Gilette Venus women's razor" stand.

A female police officer stands outside the stadium, she is also often on duty during United men's league games.

She says of the audience: »Just as busy, less rowdy«.

Nervous English women

Dell, 34 years old, is here with her wife and daughter.

The Brit wears a Three Lions cap, an England flag and a superwoman cape.

“We're here to celebrate.

It's important that we show our support," she says.

"It's a great way for women to show how good they are."

The teams on the pitch aren't doing so well after a smoky opening show and a short but heavy rain shower.

The game oscillates back and forth between the attributes tough and moderate.

Lucy Bronze in particular, actually one of the best English women, strings bad passes to ball loss to failed crosses.

England seem nervous, the stakes are high and their misguided actions put them under pressure early on.

“We weren't where we want to be.

But it was important that we started with a win,” said England's player of the game Stanway after the game.

Coach Wiegman also spoke of weak phases.

Volume disrupts communication on the field

Beth Mead, who scored the only goal of the game in a curious way, calmed things down on the field and elated everyone in the stands: she lobbed over goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger, Austria's Carina Wenninger shot the ball to the underside of the bar during her rescue operation, from there he jumped back into the field.

First the English women threw up their arms in excitement and anger, then they stayed there to cheer.

The ball was in the goal, and the VAR check didn't produce any other result.

England had more chances through Ellen White, but her headers didn't find their way into the net.

Lauren Hemp's close-range shot also went over.

On the other hand, England keeper Mary Earps had to defuse a long-range shot by Barbara Dunst with a brilliant save.

Somewhat fortunately, England saved the victory over time.

"Of course we were nervous," said coach Wiegman later: "But that's normal in a tournament like this." Mead later reported that communication on the field was very difficult due to the unusual volume.

After the opening win, the English players went for a lap in the stadium - even if many spectators had already gone home by then.

After all, they had previously smashed the hit song "Sweet Caroline", which had carried the English men's team through the European Championship tournament last year.

At that time England had reached the final.

Source: spiegel

All sports articles on 2022-07-07

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