It’s not very often we break rank here at The Sports Lowdown but as the editor for the site and someone who has embraced Women’s football over the last 6 months, I’ve decided to write this as a personal blog rather than a straightforward opinion piece.
England’s devastating 2-1 loss in the final minute of their semi-final with Japan in the Women’s World Cup has got the nation talking about the women’s game that is now at the forefront of mainstream sports coverage.
Staying up last night to watch the game, it was evident that England were clearly up for the game and were matching the favourites for the title, and we could arguably say that they were on top for the majority of the contest. The unfortunate own-goal victim was to be Notts County’s central defender Laura Bassett, who was inconsolable at the final whistle but what she and everyone of the England fans that stayed up to watch the game have said since, was that no one was blaming her.
I have had the privilege to watch Bassett in my role covering Notts County in the Women’s Super League (WSL) this season and first thing that can be said is that she is one of the best defenders in the league and has been all season. She has been a tower of strength and composure at the back for the Ladypies and it was clear that England manager Mark Sampson has felt the same, picking Bassett for all but one of the game’s in the World Cup, forging a strong partnership with England captain Steph Houghton.
What Bassett will be feeling like right now will no doubt mean little but once the dust settles down, what she has become, along with the rest of the squad, is a hero for the Women’s game in England that has struggled to get off the ground despite increased investment in the game.
For many that had never taken an interest in the game, and I was one of those just six months ago, they have grown the game in this country more than they truly know yet but, the WSL can no become a bona-fide competition for a sport that has had its trouble appealing to a wider audience.
All of the players will come back to England as heroes and pioneers for the game in this country and for Bassett, though she may be a reluctant hero, once she has taken some time to get over the heartbreak, she will be able to throw herself into the game that has captivated a new audience. If you have been following your twitter timeline over the last month or so, you can see just how much the game has grown and now it needs to take that opportunity and grow the sport.
Bassett will be welcomed back to her club a hero and you can see just how much she is appreciated within the game from those in the squad such as Karen Carney and manager Sampson. She is a true lioness with a lionheart and now she must take this negative and turn it into a positive for the good of the game.
I for one cannot wait to get back to work later this month to watch the rest of the Women’s Super League and it won’t surprise me one bit, that when Bassett’s name is read out, the biggest cheer of the day will be saved for one of England’s most loyal, hard-working players who has given her all to the game in this country.