England defender Demi Stokes is aware her side have a “huge responsibility” to inspire the next generation at the Women’s EURO 2022 this summer.
The Lionesses are among the favorites to win the European Championship, which is being played on home soil, and winning the tournament could have a profound impact on women’s football.
Stokes, who has been called up to Sarina Wiegman’s provisional squad, knows what’s at stake if the team does well.
“It’s important now that the Euros are coming up to inspire girls and if they see the Euros they’ll have something to aim for,” she told the PA news agency.
“I think we have a big responsibility, we know when we go out and play we want to play good football and obviously that will attract more fans and involve people more.
“The more successful we become, the more the ball will keep rolling and we will not only give opportunities to ourselves but also to the next generation that comes through.
“We understand that this moment is not about us, but for women’s football it’s more important to keep the ball going positively in the years to come.
“It can have such a big impact when you win … people want to know more and that way more people get involved naturally.”
With no men’s tournament this summer, the focus will be on the women, especially given that the tournament will be held in this country.
Stokes admits it will be a new experience for the England side but one they should embrace.
“I think it’s exciting to look at where the game is and has been from Euro 2005 so far, it’s going to be a very different game and I don’t think any of us who were chosen understand the level of pressure experienced , the media and the expectations that will come with it,” she admitted.
“Previous tournaments were held in different countries, so it was watered down. It’s so exciting and there will be so much excitement around the tournament.
“We have experienced players who have played in many tournaments, so it’s about using that experience, embracing it, enjoying it and not letting it pass you by.
“It will put us in a very good position to do our best. We have a very good squad, very good individual players, we’re in a good place and if we go into a tournament we’ll do our best.
“It’s about doing what we can as a team. We have great depth, great individuals and great players. It’s about doing what we did and moving on.”
Stokes was speaking after supporting the launch of McDonald’s New Fun Football programme, which will give one million children aged 5 to 11 access to free football practice sessions over the next four years.
She said: “It’s about getting as many girls as possible to participate in football and enjoy it. We want it to be really low pressure and aim to get over a million girls over the next four years if they can.
“It’s about low expectations, it’s about having fun, and it’s not about judgement. It’s really important to keep building pathways for young girls, giving them opportunities, and from that pathway deciding where they want to go on their journey.”
:: McDonald’s Fun Football is offering FREE access to football to one million children over the next four years as part of the UK’s largest grassroots football programme. Start your football journey for kids by visiting McDonalds.co.uk/Football