The roar which reverberated around the Emirates Stadium said it all as Arsenal and arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur took to the field for this historic North London derby in the Women’s Super League.
This season will be a seismic moment for women’s football in the UK, which is only going one way after England’s Lionesses captured the hearts of a nation this summer by winning the European Championships on home turf.
More than 47,000 fans packed out the Emirates for the North London derby – a record for a WSL game – and the supporters certainly weren’t disappointed as a brace from Vivianne Miedema as well as goals from Beth Mead and Raffaele Souza sealed a 4-0 win for the Gunners.
For anyone attending their first ever women’s football game, it will have, undoubtedly, been an experience which would have left them craving more.
The cheers which greeted Lionesses heroes Mead and Leah Williamson before the game were deafening and just highlighted how much their stock has risen as well as the newfound admiration they now have from supporters.
This was a dominant display from the Gunners and Spurs simply couldn’t live with their intensity on the ball as well as their options out wide.
Jonas Eidevall’s side top the table after two routine victories from their first two games and with more performances like this, they will undoubtedly be the team to beat as the season progresses. They currently look a class above their opponents.
Arsenal should be applauded for the marketing drive which helped to attract so many supporters and for also tapping into the heightened interest in the WSL by scheduling a game to take place at the Emirates in the early weeks of the new season.
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The Gunners are set to play a further five games at the Emirates over the course of the new campaign and if similar attendances follow at their remaining fixtures, it can only be a matter of time before Jonas Eidevall’s side will have outgrown their usual home stadium at Boreham Wood.
There was a real celebratory atmosphere around the Emirates throughout and you sensed it would be a special day early on. Walking through Kings Cross St Pancras and on the Piccadilly Line early on Saturday morning, there were plenty of young families making the trip to the Emirates, with young girls dressed in Arsenal shirts or Lionesses kits.
As well as that, though, looking around the Emirates before kick-off, there were dads watching with their sons, couples perhaps watching their first-ever live football match together and a real mix of age groups. All in all, it felt like a really inclusive day.
However, this can’t just be a one off. Clubs in the WSL along with the FA should be exploiting every opportunity to play matches at bigger stadiums. We cannot pass up this moment for the sake of the next generation who dream of following in the footsteps of the likes of Williamson and co.
As Chelsea boss Emma Hayes suggested in her press conference ahead of the Blues’ game against Manchester City, every international break should be a celebration of women’s football with all clubs playing at their men’s team stadiums.
Can games be better scheduled as well? WSL fixtures have clashed too many times with men’s first team games over the last couple of seasons.
Away from the pitch, the Government simply must act on the Lionesses open letter after their Euros success calling on girls to be given more access to football within PE. If girls can’t play football or sport at school, how on earth are they meant to inspire the next generation?
In recent years, a new breed of player has started to emerge in the likes of Mead and Man City’s Lauren Hemp, who are so technically gifted on the ball and can dominate teams on their own.
With more investment pumped into the game at grassroots level and more access to football within PE, can you image the type of footballers England could produce? It’s not an overreaction to say that with that investment, England could dominate at international level for a long time to come, especially with the inspirational Sarina Wiegman at the helm.
In short, this really feels like the tip of the iceberg for women’s football and it simply must be capitalised on.