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Beth Mead four-word response to TNT Sports blunder signals key issue in England Euro 2024 final

England Women's team lifted the Euro 2022 trophy after beating Germany
-Credit: (Image: Catherine Ivill - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)


With Gareth Southgate's England standing on the brink of history, Arsenal forward Beth Mead made sure to set the record straight.

Wednesday night's last-gasp victory over the Netherlands means another major tournament final beckons for the Three Lions. It is a momentous feat but, it must be remembered, not entirely unprecedented.

It is less than 12 months since England lined up against eventual champions Spain in the Women's World Cup final and only two years since the Lionesses romped to victory at the 2022 Women's European Championship. The latter yielded the country's first major footballing trophy since 1966 and was the trigger point for a seismic shift in the popularity of the women's game in the UK and beyond.

It is little wonder, then, that Mead - who finished as top-scorer at Euro 2022 - took issue with the wording of a TNT Sports post dubbing Southgate "the only England manager to reach two major international finals". Replying to the now-deleted post on X, formerly Twitter, Mead wrote: “Hmm, beg to differ”, alluding to the fact Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman has already masterminded the country's progression to two tournament finals.

Her response, perhaps inevitably, drew the ire of the 'Nobody Cares About Women's Football Brigade' but her frustration is entirely justified and raises an important point ahead of Sunday's final in Berlin. Over the past few years, broadcasters and media outlets have become increasingly conscious of differentiating between men's and women's sport when covering major events or tournaments.

The motivation for this is not to cause division but to ensure the achievements of male and female athletes are given equal consideration. While TNT's controversial post was well-intentioned and almost certainly not designed to undermine the successes of Wiegman's team, it is easy to understand Mead's indignation.

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After all, this is a player well-versed in the game's historic apathy towards women, a player well-aware that women were actually banned by the Football Association (FA) from playing football until 1970, the sport having been deemed to be "unsuitable" for females. Mead has spoken previously about how, during her days playing for a grassroots boys' team, opposition players and parents would often laugh when they saw her turn up because she was a girl.

It is for that reason England's Euro-win in 2022 was so monumental; a compelling symbol of how times have changed, the moment players like Mead were finally vindicated for their efforts to change the country's perception of the women's game. It is understandable, then, that even an inadvertent omission of the Lionesses' triumph is likely to rankle.

It's a lesson Three Lions captain Harry Kane was reminded of last month, when he was quizzed on the criticism directed at Southgate's side by some ex-players. "The bottom line is we haven't won anything as a nation for a long, long time," he said. "A lot of these players were part of that as well and they know how tough it is, so it is not digging anyone out."

His comments sparked an online backlash, with some fans decrying his perceived erasure of the Lionesses' Euros success. "Apparently Harry Kane believes England haven't won anything in years. Weird! Did I imagine England winning Euros and coming second in the world cup or don't women count?," one X user wrote.

"Does Harry Kane forget the Lionesses winning their Euros? Should have said, we men, haven’t won anything for a long, long time," said another.

Of course, there are many people who will feel the outcry prompted by Kane's misstep is over the top. He was giving a press conference about the men's national team and therefore it is only natural his focus was on Southgate's side.

His comments, though clumsy, were not designed to be derogatory towards his female counterparts, nor towards the England men's Under-21s, who won last summer's tournament in Georgia.

And yet it's hard not to feel that a player as media-trained as Kane should have known better. His is a voice that carries enormous weight and his failure to acknowledge the Lionesses' achievements was always likely to attract negative attention.

Compare the England captain with Andy Murray, for example. The former Wimbledon champion has, on more than one occasion, gone out of his way to point to the successes of female tennis players.

In a 2017 press conference, when it was put to him that Sam Querrey was the first US tennis player to reach a Grand Slam semi-final in eight years, Murray was quick to remind the reporter he was the first male player. In a separate interview, Murray corrected an interviewer who described him as "the first person to ever win two Olympic tennis medals", noting that Serena and Venus Williams had both accomplished the feat before him.

It might sound unnecessarily fastidious, just as the backlash Kane has faced may seem overblown, but football is still an irrefutably androcentric domain and it will require a continued and deliberate effort to change that. It is certainly something the media and the public at large should be mindful of in the days ahead, when the national focus will - quite rightly - be on the England men's team.

Instead of looking for ways to belittle the Lionesses' triumphs, we as a country should be proud that a senior England team has made it to four of last five major tournament finals. Our football landscape is in ruder health than it has perhaps ever been - something Wiegman herself conceded when asked about England's victory over her native Netherlands in a press conference on Thursday.

"We all know that football worldwide is the biggest sport," the Dutchwoman said ahead of the Lionesses' decisive Euro 2025 qualifier with the Republic of Ireland. "In England it's on a different level since I came in and worked here.

"It's so deep in society and the people support so much and it's incredible of course. I never, ever take it for granted. I think the whole country should be very proud of what, at this moment, the England men do. It's not easy, that's what we've seen too. It's good to be English at the moment."

Wiegman is right. After decades of international disappointment, it is a pleasure to have two England teams the nation can be proud of. Whatever happens on Sunday, that, at least, is something to celebrate.