It was a long time before the Lionesses retired to the dressing room, retreating beyond the glare of the television cameras that had captured every joyous tear-stained face, every confetti snow angel, every rendition of Sweet Caroline and Three Lions, and every angle of a trophy lift that ended 56 years of hurt.
In the dressing room there was more dancing and singing. “Everyone is dancing, beers flying everywhere, there’s Abba, Céline Dion,” said Ella Toone, the scorer of England’s first goal in a historic 2-1 extra-time defeat of Germany in the final of Euro 2022.
We got a glimpse of the antics when the scorer of England’s winner, Chloe Kelly, sprinted into the mixed zone where players are interviewed, medal round her neck and trophy in hand, to give a brief dancing “It’s coming home” down a microphone before whizzing away again. Then, the players burst into Sarina Wiegman’s press conference, danced around the stage, singing Three Lions again, as the goalkeeper Mary Earps and right-back Lucy Bronze swivelled their hips while standing on top of the desk at which the manager was seated.
They were magical and joyous celebration scenes from players who will struggle to digest what they have achieved, Bronze said, until they are “at home, on the sofa, having a glass of orange juice or cup of tea”. She said: “That will be the moment where you think it’s insane, we’re champions of Europe.”
After filing through the mixed zone and doing interview after interview the players boarded the team bus back to the Lensbury hotel in Teddington that has become a home from home since the team travelled south after their opening game at Old Trafford. “The whole bus back to the hotel there was partying,” Toone said. “Everyone was everywhere, on tables, chairs, down the alleyway.”
A group of photographers and fans greeted the team outside the hotel, and they continued their dancing in the courtyard before sliding out of view again. There, the party really got started. In a room decked out with balloons, a large cake, lots of drink, pizzas and canapes – and a dancefloor, with a DJ and band to keep them on their feet – the players were welcomed by their closest family members.
“It felt unreal,” Toone said when asked about the impact of seeing her family after more than a month apart. “They’ve been on this journey with us and it’s hard, we haven’t been able to celebrate with them after games, so it was worth the wait for that hug after the final whistle.”
Bronze said: “There were a lot of tears, there was a lot of heart-to-hearts. I think everybody’s mum and dad, and brothers and sisters and cousins, spoke to every single player in the team. It was like everyone else’s family wanted to thank everyone else on the team for making their daughter’s or sister’s dream come true. It was amazing. It was a brilliant night and I have just as many memories from the night as I do from the game probably.”
Many families stayed for the duration, but Bronze’s family didn’t last. “We have got two under two,” she said. “They did well! I am not going to lie, my nephew did very well. He kept up with everybody, he got on the dancefloor a little bit until two in the morning and then that was his little two-year-old party done. He thought he had a medal on as he had a lanyard on with a picture of his aunty Lucy on it. He told everyone that was his medal, which is pretty nice.”
Wiegman struggled to keep up with the party-hard team that, according to the captain, Leah Williamson, “partied more than we’ve played football in the past 24 hours”. Williamson, bucket hat on her head, was greeted on Monday by huge cheers from the crowd in Trafalgar Square, where players masked tired faces and hangovers with sunglasses. “This group, we like to work hard but we like to party harder,” Williamson said.
Bronze tried to hand Wiegman a beer on Monday morning. “Please don’t, Lucy,” she said the manager had replied. The previous night Wiegman had managed half a beer. “For the first time in my life I enjoyed it, because I really don’t like beer,” she said.
Bronze hopes Wiegman has the taste now. “We have been winding her up, but it’s something she’ll have to get used to now she’s an honorary Englishwoman. She’ll have to get practising. Hopefully we can have more nights like that, so she’s going to need it.”