Chloe Kelly wants women and girls to feel they are able to “just be themselves” – something she was doing when she celebrated her Euros winner last summer in memorable style.
After poking home the extra-time finish that secured England’s historic 2-1 win over Germany at Wembley in July, substitute Kelly took off her shirt and whirled it around her head as she wheeled away in her sports bra.
While it has been seen as an image of female empowerment, Kelly says it was a spontaneous reaction, celebrating the same as she would as a child – the way she felt in general on the field that day.
The 25-year-old Ealing-born Manchester City winger told the PA news agency: “I think it was just off the cuff and just showed my emotion in that moment.
“’We’ve done it’, that’s all I thought. It was nothing more than that – and we needed to see out the game then, and what I could do to do that. But I think in that moment I just celebrated and went absolutely crazy!
“It’s something I love talking about because it brings back so many great memories. I think it’s one that will stick with me forever and one I will definitely be telling grandchildren and things like that, because it’s memories you dream of when you’re a young girl.
“For me growing up just round the corner from Wembley, you dream of those moments, to play there. I was playing ‘Wembley doubles’ as a kid, where you score and go through to the next round, and that is just like playing at Wembley.
“That is how I felt – I felt like a young kid on the pitch there and I just celebrated the goal like I would celebrating in cage football.”
Comparisons were drawn with the famous celebration of former United States international Brandi Chastain after she scored the winning penalty in the 1999 World Cup final.
Kelly, who received a message on Twitter from the “inspirational” Chastain on the day and has kept in touch with her, said: “Just to see how many women were so touched by that and how powerful it was – I probably didn’t realise in that moment just how powerful that celebration was…I think it’s brilliant, and I think as women, we are so powerful. So let’s be ourselves.
“Not just me in that celebration, I think the whole tournament really empowered women in this country, and for sport in England I think that’s massive so long may that continue. We have to keep our foot on the gas now.
“Those that came before us paved the way for us to be in this moment now, and I think we have to create a legacy now going forward, and an environment where the younger generations are able to just be themselves. Be comfortable in an environment where you can be yourself – and I think that’s what we’re setting out to do with the PE lessons in schools and having football accessible to females. I think that’s massive.”
Coinciding with International Women’s Day, it has been announced that the Government is to make it clear to schools that they are expected to deliver a minimum of two hours of PE per week and ensure that girls have equal access to all school sport, including football.
That comes after the England squad called for change in an open letter published just after the Euros success, the first major tournament triumph in the team’s history.
In December, the Football Association published a number of positive statistics regarding the growth of the women’s game, which included the number of registered female players rising by 12.5 per cent from September to December, and the 2022-23 Women’s Super League season has seen attendance records broken as was the case at the Euros.
Kelly, who is hoping to achieve more success with the Lionesses at this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, says she is “very proud” of the role she has had in the transformation that has taken place so far.
And she said: “I think as people and players we can carry that on.
“I feel sometimes having difficult conversations of ‘no, why can’t girls be accepted in this environment?’ is very important. I think what we did in the summer was amazing, but there’s still so far to go with women in sport – not just football, in sport as a whole – and I think it’s very important that we do keep our foot on the gas.
“I’m very proud to be part of a team that did change mindsets, and it is so much better now – and I think we can make it even better for the generations that come after us.”