Wales' leading goalscorer makes rally call to fans following World Cup buzz
By Wales international Helen Ward
As I head into my 25th season of football, I can hardly believe where the women’s game is at compared to 1994 – or, in fact, quite how old I am, but that’s beside the point.
Women’s football is riding a massive wave right now, thanks largely to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. I could tell from the build-up that it was set to be the biggest ever event in the sport so far.
Nike and Adidas producing bespoke kits for their competing nations, Adidas matching the bonuses for their athletes to the ones they paid out for the men’s World Cup 12 months earlier.
It was always going to be huge.
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Once the competition was underway, it became even clearer that there was huge interest. Every time I switched on the TV or the radio, the World Cup was mentioned, and social media was full of it.
Of course, as a Wales international, the fact that I have had to sit back and watch as a neutral fan has been hard.
We had taken England so close, after all.
To see them go on and do so well always had that sense of "what if?" about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting for one minute that we would have gone on to have the tournament that they had, but it sure would have been fun giving it a go.
I think the Lionesses going on to do so well and getting to the semi-final has gathered further interest along the way, but people aren’t only talking about England.
They’re talking about women’s football as a sport - and as a whole - and that’s the best thing that has come out of France 2019 for me.
What we need now in Wales, is to jump aboard that wave and start making our own history.
We want to break attendance records, we want to sell out stadia and we want to create a buzz about our players, our team and our entire women’s programme.
We had the campaign of our lives last time around, and it wasn’t enough.
We know that, and you know that.
What we did do, though, is hopefully inspire our very own Red Wall to keep coming back. We need backing from the stands, from partners and sponsors to bridge that gap. Our aim is to be competing in the European Championships in England in 2021 and we will need more than just the 11 players on the pitch to do that.
Join the party now and let’s see where it can take us.
Helen is Wales' leading record goalscorer for both the men's and women's teams. She plays with Watford Ladies and has 88 caps for Wales.