It’s all about timing. With exquisite precision, Bend It Like Beckham has scorched into the West End, scoring five-star reviews with its feel-good story about girls playing football.
And lo!, back in the real world, England’s “Lionesses” triumphed over Women’s World Cup hosts Canada 2-1 to reach the semi-finals of the tournament for the very first time with a universally acclaimed display of brilliant football.
Is this, then, going to be the watershed moment for the female beautiful game? Will this be the year when women’s football can finally start to be taken seriously? In the musical, heroine Jess sleeps under an Old Trafford duvet cover and has a poster of Beckham (in his Manchester United strip) on her bedroom wall. But after the triumph at Vancouver, can existing role models be overturned? Could it be that young, football-mad girls will pull on their boots dreaming of emulating Lucy Bronze or Jodie Taylor (who both scored against Canada)? Will we see the advent of a Lioness duvet cover?
It would be good if that might happen, and for some women’s and girl’s squads it possibly can. Yet women’s football still has quite a long road to travel before its stars have the same status and global reach as (say) female tennis stars or athletes.
The first hurdle is school sports. If women’s football is going to take off across the UK, it needs to be properly built into girls’ consciousness as part of the sports curriculum, alongside netball and hockey.