THE Archbishop of Canterbury has joined church leaders to congratulate the England football team for winning the Euro 2022 final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening.
The Lionesses beat Germany 2-1 after extra time to win the tournament. It was the first time that England has won a major women’s tournament and the first time that any England side has won a tournament since 1966. The match was watched by 87,192 spectators in the stadium: a record attendance for a Euros match, in either the men’s or women’s tournament.
Archbishop Welby expressed “huge congratulations” on Twitter to the England manager, Sarina Wiegman, and her players: “A much deserved win and a historic moment — thank you for the joy and inspiration you’ve brought to us all.”
The Queen described the Lionesses’ victory as “a significant achievement for the entire team, including your support staff.
“The Championships and your performance in them have rightly won praise. However, your success goes far beyond the trophy you have so deservedly earned.
“You have all set an example that will be an inspiration for girls and women today, and for future generations. It is my hope that you will be as proud of the impact you have had on your sport as you are of the result today.”
The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Libby Lane, who is the lead bishop for sport, wrote on Twitter: “So, so pleased for our incredible Lionesses and feeling incredibly proud of their achievement. Congratulations to ALL involved. A great result for them and for the nation.”
The former Archbishop of York, Lord Sentamu, who provided social-media commentary during last year’s men’s Euros (News, 9 July 2021, 16 July 2021) expressed jubilation, writing on Twitter shortly after the final whistle: “I have just come out of a closet of silent prayers for The Lionesses against Germany to learn that they have won by 2 goals to 1 scored by Kelly. Wow! ABSOLUTELY FANTABULOUS! I said before: LIONESSES YOU ARE SIMPLY THE BEST. Yippee! Plan well executed! Thank you! Much Respect.”
The Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Revd Bev Mason, was more concise: “Simply stunning football. Many many congratulations.”
Speaking on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day on Monday morning, the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, who watched the match from the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, said that he took the most joy from “the stories of the players themselves”.
He continued: “Four weeks ago, only a few people had heard of Beth Mead, Allesia Russo, or Lucy Bronze. They were plugging away, carving out a living from the sport that was tiny compared to the men’s version of the game.
“But, today, their names, and those of their fellow players, are being splashed across the front and back pages of the papers. Somebody, at some stage, was clever enough to spot raw potential in these players, and now that judgement has been richly fulfilled. That raising up of the lowly and the unlikely lies at the very heart of the Christian faith, with its passion to recognise the dignity of all people.”
Bishop North concluded: “It’s great that those players were able to use their gifts to such dazzling effect. But it leaves me wondering how many others there are whose potential in all sorts of fields remains unfulfilled. How much talent are we wasting?
“A nation in which everyone sees it as their responsibility actively to draw out the gifts of others would be a powerful legacy from last night’s win. Just imagine that: a culture of mutual encouragement. Then the humble and meek would indeed be exalted.”
Two days before the final, Christians in Sport posted a blog exhorting the England players not to be overwhelmed by the pressure: “The game is huge, but it’s a match that does not, must not, define you.”
It continued: “If you are in Christ; your performance, your victory, your defeat, does not need to define you. Instead of playing with fear you can play with freedom and thankfulness. You are loved — in spite of who you are, not because of it. You are loved not because of what you do, but because of what Jesus has done.”