Leah Williamson exclusive: England captain welcomes opportunity to use her platform as force for good

Football supporters could go to Wembley anticipating to see their heroes, but it surely’s uncommon they get to meet them on the road as they stroll previous the nationwide stadium.

But that probability was afforded to a fortunate few once they ran into Leah Williamson on a wet November day, with the England girls’s captain again on the scene of her and her team-mates’ best triumph.

It’s typically stated the ladies’s Euros, held in England this summer season, was the breakthrough second for girls’s soccer on this nation thanks to the host nation lifting the trophy for the primary time.

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The proven fact that Williamson’s membership, Arsenal, have twice offered greater than 40,000 tickets for Women’s Super League matches on the Emirates this season demonstrates the way in which wherein girls’s soccer has gripped the nation’s consideration.

But one other good instance was the quantity of individuals taking outing of their day to queue for an image with Williamson outdoors Wembley, a lot of them after doing a double-take as they walked by and clearly asking themselves, ‘Is that basically the England captain standing there?’

Williamson lifts the trophy after England beat Germany within the Euros closing

Williamson is completely happy to pose for as many photos as attainable earlier than, in an try to keep away from a sudden downpour that scatters the crowds, shifting to a close-by pub for an unique chat with Sky Sports.

The setting – just some hundred metres from the stadium the place she grew to become the primary England soccer captain to raise a serious trophy in 56 years – is becoming.

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“I think this is the only other way I’d have liked to have done that game – in a pub, watching it with my mates!” jokes Williamson. “It’s always good to come back. I think I’ll always associate it now with that night.”

England’s extra-time victory over Germany could also be 4 months in the past however clearly stays an enormous supply of pleasure for Williamson.

“Honestly, to stand alongside those girls… when tournaments come around, the reason you want to be involved is because you know how great the tournament’s going to be,” she stated.

“It’s obviously a great moment as a professional footballer performance-wise but the time that you have, the memories that you make and then hopefully the change that you can make, is incredible.

“Obviously, by profitable, we made the largest influence we presumably may have. I’m so proud to have been part of that.”

The Euros closing not solely secured Williamson’s place within the nation’s soccer historical past but in addition ensured she is in excessive demand, with showing on the duvet of GQ and creating playlists on Radio 1 amongst her latest actions away from the pitch.

Williamson on the GQ Men of the Year occasion in London earlier this month

Williamson agrees that life has obtained busier for the reason that summer season however insists: “I’ve also turned down quite a lot as well – I am a footballer! I’m glad that’s still the thing I love doing the most.

“I really like soccer as a result of it is launched me to individuals, completely different opinions, completely different cultures, other ways of life and completely different industries that basically curiosity me.

“Every time I step out on a platform I represent women’s football, which is what we want to happen.”

The present platform – the one which has introduced her again to Wembley – sees her unveiling a mural of Helen Hardy, the founding father of Manchester Laces, the primary inclusive girls’s and non-binary soccer membership in Manchester.

The piece was created by artist Charlotte Archer, along with the National Lottery, to rejoice these supporting girls in sport and encourage different to get entangled.

The trigger is on the “top of our agenda” says Williamson, including: “I benefited from the National Lottery and I stand on the top platform in women’s football in this country, but that funding goes to causes where, if I hadn’t got to where I am, I’d hope would be a place for me to enjoy football.

“That’s what this marketing campaign is celebrating, which is absolutely essential to me.”

Williamson with Helen Hardy, the founding father of Manchester Laces, and Charlotte Archer, who created the paintings, at Wembley

Williamson’s assist and empowerment of girls in sport, as nicely as the use of her platform to communicate out on points that matter to her, has been enhanced since she was completely named England captain by supervisor Sarina Wiegman in April, however she says it is one thing she could be doing no matter whether or not she was in possession of the armband.

“If you’re a women’s footballer you know you have that responsibility – it’s a given,” she says. “It’s almost like it’s passed onto you from the person ahead of you so we’re all pretty well-versed on it and it’s something that actually matters to us. I hope this continues.

“The world’s clearly altering now however, after we had been youthful, we did not have what younger women have now and we hope younger women sooner or later have extra.

“Obviously, being captain, I’ll be on certain platforms and have a chance to speak – and it’s important I use my voice – but everyone carries that same weight on their shoulders. But we love it – it’s part of the job.”

One of the problems Williamson has tackled in latest weeks is the boys’s World Cup in Qatar, a rustic that has confronted quite a few questions concerning its therapy of the LGBTQ+ neighborhood, as nicely as migrant employees.

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Williamson’s team-mate Beth Mead has criticised the choice to award Qatar internet hosting rights for the upcoming World Cup

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While expressing her assist for the England males’s aspect, the 25-year-old has admitted the selection of host nation is making following the match as a supporter a much less gratifying expertise.

Williamson says she has been following the match – “I love football and I want to watch football” – however provides: “I just wish we were heading into a World Cup where we can enjoy it for what it is.

“Unfortunately, the shadow that hangs over the match simply makes that a bit of bit tougher,” Williamson adds. “It does not really feel like a standard World Cup for me.

“But I love football and I want the boys to win the World Cup. I want to be there to celebrate with them – I just wish all we were talking about was football because that’s what we normally do.”

As nicely as occasions on the pitch in Qatar, the U-turn carried out by the Football Association – plus a number of different European federations – over plans for captain Harry Kane to put on the OneLove armband have dominated the headlines.

The armband – designed to present assist for the LGBTQ+ neighborhood – was due to be worn by Kane and his fellow captains throughout the World Cup however these plans had been ditched underneath the specter of punishment by FIFA.

While the FA has been criticised for backing down, others – together with former England worldwide Alex Scott and Nancy Faeser, a senior German politician – have displayed the OneLove armband in Qatar.

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“I’m proud that people have worn it,” says Williamson. “I’m proud with my friend Alex for wearing it on national television.

“I’m glad persons are carrying it and nonetheless getting these messages throughout, as a result of we have at all times used soccer as a automobile for selling these optimistic messages.”

One positive message Williamson and her England team-mates received before the Euros came from the men’s team, who shared their experiences of reaching the final of the men’s competition – where they were beaten by Italy on penalties at Wembley – the previous year.

But having gone one better than their male counterparts in the summer, Williamson says the women’s team didn’t have the chance to reverse the roles before Gareth Southgate’s squad headed to Qatar.

“I’ve solely had particular person discussions with the boys due to their schedule and going straight off the membership season,” explained Williamson.

“Before the Euros, it was good for us as a result of they had been across the camp and we may actually combine. Maybe that might have been helpful.

“But I’m certainly not going to stand in front of anybody and tell them how to do it, even though I’ve done it once. That doesn’t make me any different to before.”

Whether Kane is in a position to be part of Williamson in main England to glory on the worldwide stage this winter stays to be seen.

Harry Kane helped England to a 6-2 thrashing of Iran of their opening World Cup sport

As for Williamson, she reveals the main focus of Wiegman’s squad moved onto their very own World Cup – happening in Australia and New Zealand subsequent summer season – a very long time in the past.

“As soon as we won the Euros it was like, ‘What’s next?'” reveals Williamson. “You’re almost chasing that high again.”

So can we count on to see her hoisting one other trophy aloft, turning into the primary England soccer captain to lead their crew to two main worldwide titles?

“It was the same before we went into the Euros,” says Williamson. “Who knows?”

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