It was lonely being a female football fanatic. Not any more | Julie Welch

The huge interest in the England Women’s World Cup team shows that, finally, female involvement in our national sport is normalised

On Tuesday night, England played the USA in the semi-final of the Women’s World Cup. BBC viewing figures showed that it was the most-watched TV programme this year, with a peak of 11.7 million people tuning in, far more than Britain’s Got Talent. Another 1.7 million watched online. What I love most about this is the normalisation of the women’s game, the normalisation of women reporting and commentating on it, the normalisation of men watching it. Of course there have been those dark corners of Football Twitter where the dinosaurs and losers huddle together for warmth, making jokes about women getting back into the kitchen. The ones who are still stuck in the 1960s.

Let’s rewind right back to there. When I was in my teens, the manager of West Ham United, Ron Greenwood, was friendly with my parents. He knew I liked football (I kept quiet about my love of Spurs so as not to cause offence), and was a source of tickets for matches at Upton Park. One Saturday the whole family was invited. My father was whisked off to the boardroom, while my mother and I were ushered into the purdah of the ladies’ lounge with the players’ and directors’ wives. They might as well have shut us away in a drawer out of sight.

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