EXCLUSIVE: Zelem hopes Euro 2022 inspires next generation of Lionesses

SOCCER

Katie Zelem, a Manchester United and England player, feels that this summer’s European Championship can inspire the next generation of young footballers.

The Lionesses are attempting to win their first major international trophy, and the competition is being held on English soil for the first time since 2005.

The 16-team Women’s Euro 2022 promises to be a record-breaking event when it takes off in July, with all three of England’s group games at the Amex Stadium, Old Trafford, and St Mary’s already sold out, as well as the Wembley final.

And Zelem, 26, is looking for a summer as memorable as last year’s, when the men’s team finished runners-up after playing six of their seven games at England’s national stadium.

All of England's Euro 2022 group games and the Wembley final have already sold out

“It will be fantastic to have the women’s Euros in England,” the Red Devils skipper told LiveScore exclusively. You saw how much attention the men’s team received last summer.

Speaking exclusively to LiveScore, the Red Devils captain said: “It will be incredible to have the women’s Euros in England. You saw the attention the men’s team got last summer.

“Every single person, whether they loved football or had never watched it in their life, supported the lads throughout the whole summer.

“I was at Wembley for the final and then played there a few weeks later so it was incredible to see the differences and be on the other side of things.

“With the games being televised and so much more accessible, I think it’s a great showcase for women’s football — not just in England but across Europe.

“They’re filling stadiums. Wembley’s already sold out, all our group games are sold out. I think it’ll be amazing to attract attention to the sport and hopefully shine a really positive light on it.”

The hosts had high hopes for a successful event, with Sarina Wiegman’s team among the favorites to win it all.

While Zelem knows the Lionesses will do everything in their power to win, she believes this summer will be about much more than what happens on the field.

Katie Zelem has two England caps to her name

She continued:

“Everyone wants to do as best as they can at the Euros. Obviously winning a tournament isn’t straightforward, as we saw last summer, but the team, whoever is picked, will give it their all.

“However, I think it is much more about inspiring the next generation. There are so many little girls and boys who will be watching England playing in a home Euros and that’s a dream come true for anyone.

“Anyone that’s played sport knows how amazing it is to represent their country — it’s about making the nation proud.

“Proud to be English, proud to be supporting us and inspiring thousands or millions of girls and boys in the future.”

International recognition
Zelem, who had previously represented England at several juvenile levels, had to wait longer than expected for her senior debut.

But, after winning her first two caps this season in victories against Latvia and North Macedonia, she is determined that her first international tournament experience will be in her home country.

International recognition

Zelem, who had previously represented England at several juvenile levels, had to wait longer than expected for her senior debut.

But, after winning her first two caps this season in victories against Latvia and North Macedonia, she is determined that her first international tournament experience will be in her home country.

Zelem added: “I think if I am selected, that’ll be up there with being Manchester United captain as my proudest achievement. That would be a huge achievement and something I’ve dreamed of since I was little.

“My first caps have maybe came a little bit later than I would have liked, but good things take time. I’m so proud now to be involved in the squad and with the Lionesses.

“Every single finger crossed that I will be picked!”

“There’s four of us United girls currently around the squad at the moment and three of us are United fans.

“I remember being a flag bearer at a game when I was only 10 or 11. I was only tiny and the flag was gigantic.

“As a Manchester United fan, to play an England game at the Euros at Old Trafford would be something else.”

On the growth of the women’s game, Zelem added: “Barcelona have had around 90,000 for their El Clasico. You’d be lucky to get that many people in the men’s game.

“A lot of men’s Premier League teams are not even filling their stadiums! It shows there is a hunger to watch, not just the women’s game, but high-level football in general.

“I think people appreciate high-level football and that’s exactly what Barcelona are bringing right now.

“Its not the fact of male or female, the gender they want to watch, it’s just that about the success and the quality of the sport people are watching.”

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