The several dozen reporters and broadcasters in attendance at St George’s Park to watch the Lionesses train on Tuesday were proof of just how far the women’s game has come, said former England defender Faye White.
White, who is the country’s longest-serving female captain, was one of 277 former players honoured at England’s training centre as part of The FA’s 50th-anniversary pledge to celebrate the history of the women’s game.
It was a time to reminisce and marvel at the strides the game has made, especially from when White was an England international between 1997-2012.
“Just a massive change as far as the media here today,” said the 45-year-old, who made 90 appearances over 15 years. “I’d have to do interviews to sell the game to try and say ‘Come and watch us,’ you know, to get more bums in seats really.”
The women were each presented with a velvet legacy cap from current England squad members. Some of the players threw their caps up in the air in celebration.
FIFA recently announced it was tripling the prize money for the upcoming Women’s World Cup to $150 million, and that the women would receive the same type of support for travel, accommodation, and physiotherapy, as the men did at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“There’s a stark contrast between the time I played to what FIFA are now offering and stipulating in terms of support,” said Anita Asante, who made 71 appearances for England plus four for Britain at the London 2012 Olympics.
“We had testing times. We didn’t have the backing and investment from multiple sources, whether it’s for the prize money that maybe would have driven the sport forward much quicker and much sooner. But I think it’s a welcome step... it’s long overdue.”
Asante, who played for 19 years in both the United States and Europe, said as exciting as these times are, she’s content to have played when she did.
“What we went through in terms of the challenges, the highs and the lows is what’s given us the sort of character, the legacy, the person that I am today and the drive that I’ve had has been because of my experience, so I wouldn’t want to change that,” said the 37-year-old, who coaches second-tier side Bristol City.
“I’m really happy that I went through it, and lots of players prior to me went through it, to make it easier for this generation and the next generation to come.”
The legacy celebration was held while England prepare for Thursday’s inaugural Women’s Finalissima game against Brazil at Wembley Stadium.
“It’s really significant,” said former midfielder Jill Scott, who helped England win Euro 2022 at Wembley. “Obviously playing against Brazil, at Wembley, hopefully, we can get another sellout.
“It’s just an absolute incredible event. The girls, every time you get so excited about being at Wembley, that’s the home of football... Hopefully we’ll get a big crowd again, and keep that interest in the women’s game.”
Last year’s Euro final drew 87,192 fans, a record for a women’s international fixture in Europe.
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