The Scotland team may be on their way home from the World Cup in France, but their gutsy performances have been credited with inspiring a huge upsurge in interest in women’s football.
The national side exited the tournament in heart-breaking fashion on Wednesday night after surrendering a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 with Argentina thanks to a controversial retaken penalty.
“We’ve seen them inspire the country and inspire the next generation of wee girls and wee boys”
But as the team woke up to the reality of defeat on Thursday morning, they were buoyed by tributes from fans who said their performance was a watershed moment for the women’s game.
As well as qualifying for their first World Cup and scoring five goals, Shelley Kerr’s side also smashed attendance records at Hampden during their final warm-up game against Jamaica.
Before the game the team was hoping for around 10,000 spectators, with the previous record of 4,098 set against Switzerland last year. But in the end, 18,555 supporters turned up.
Their opening match against England also set a new record as the UK’s most watched women’s football game in history, reaching a peak of 6.1m viewers and a 37.8 per cent audience share.
Before a ball had even been kicked, figures from the Scottish Football Association (SFA) showed that the number of women playing football has doubled over the past five years.
The number of women and girls registered with the national body has risen from 7,216 in 2014-15 to 14,071 in 2018-19, with the team’s raised profile expected to lead to even more signing up.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised that the Scottish Government would do “everything we can” to capitalise on the surge of publicity with the aim of getting more children into sport.
“But in recent weeks we’ve also watched a young, talented national team take us to our first World Cup in 21 years, entertain us with some brilliant football and score five great goals.
“Most importantly of all, we’ve seen them inspire the country and inspire the next generation of wee girls and wee boys who dream of pulling on the Scotland shirt.”
Russell Glencross, 39, from Edinburgh, travelled to Rennes to watch Scotland play Japan with his wife and two children, 10-year-old Niamh and seven-year-old Harris.
He told i his daughter had been “football daft” since she was a toddler and the rest of the family had been “sucked in” after their “fantastic” experience in France.
“I probably didn’t have a huge interest in women’s football until my daughter got involved, but then through her I’ve been going to games and have really started to enjoy it myself,” he added.
“I hope now it’s gone a bit more mainstream that we keep up this momentum, and people do continued to support the team and keep up this enthusiasm around women’s football.”