Fireworks flew and lights flashed as the pre-match show to England against the USA foreshadowed the lightning talent on the pitch.
It was a fitting celebratory atmosphere as the European champions looked to make a statement against the champions of the world in front of a 76,893-strong Wembley crowd. England did just that, defeating the icons of women’s football for the first time in five and a half years and the first time on home soil since 2011.
Juxtaposed with that carnivalesque feel, however, was an important message. Before kick-off, every player, wearing teal blue armbands, stood behind a banner which read “PROTECT THE PLAYERS” while the Wembley arch also shone in the same colour.
It was a show of solidarity from the two squads after the report published on Monday — commissioned by US Soccer and led by former deputy attorney general Sally Q. Yates — that found allegations of abusive behaviour and sexual misconduct in America’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
GO DEEPERInvestigation: U.S. Soccer, NWSL didn’t provide safe player environment
There is a tension between the joy of playing on the pitch and the “horrible situations”, in Sarina Wiegman’s words, that many players experience off it. Both exist side by side, a reflection of the state of the women’s game.
“We celebrated lots of things but also when this happens, you can’t let it go,” said Wiegman after the match
“The timing is now. We used this momentum to spread the word that this is unacceptable. We are all behind it and supportive, but then we can play a very intense game. You could see lots of respect.
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