Shocked by Chloe Kelly’s shirtless celebration? Why it’s a monumental moment for women in sport

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  • "This is a woman's body - not for sex or show."

    After a nail-bitingly tense match yesterday, England Women’s team won the Women’s Euro 22 match with a 2-1 defeat against Germany.

    It marks the first time ever that either the Women’s or Men’s teams have been crowned Euro champions.

    In the 20th minute of extra time, Chloe Kelly scored a scorcher of a winning goal for England, netting a goal with a second lunge after an initial missed attempt.

    Sprinting around the pitch, the forward ripped her shirt off, whipping it around her head in jubilation.

    Her topless celebration soon became one of the most iconic shots from the final, marking a significant moment for women in sport globally.

    Why? Well, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) dictates that you get a yellow card if you take your shirt off mid-match for a whole host of reasons. This rule stands across both the men and women’s games, yet last night, Kelly broke that rule (and subsequently handled a post-celebration yellow card).

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 31: Chloe Kelly of England celebrates with her team after scoring her sides second goal during the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 final match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium on July 31, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

    The moment was iconic – sheer elation, passion and disbelief that she’d bagged a potentially winning goal so close to the final whistle. But it was more than that. Seeing Kelly, topless yet as far from sexualised as you can imagine, celebrating herself, her strength and her skillset, was magical.

    One post that’s gone viral on social media sums it up. Author Lucy Ward shares: “This image of a woman shirtless in a sports bra – hugely significant. This is a woman’s body – not for sex or show – just for the sheer joy of what she can do and the power and skill she has. Wonderful. #Lionesses”

    The Tweet currently has eleven thousand retweets and nearly 130 thousand likes.

    Crime and Gothic fiction PhD student Vik Gill added: “I absolutely ADORED that moment! A strong feminist statement and a well-deserved moment of utter pride!”.

    It mirrors American footballer Brandi Chastain’s celebration after scoring the winning penalty in the 1999 World Cup final.

    Women are all-too-often judged, ridiculed or sexualised in sport. Just last week, comments underneath a Just Eat TikTok ad asked to go back to the “good old days” where women didn’t play. Not only that, but they’re often subject to archaic and outdated uniform rules. During the European Championships last year, the Norwegian women’s beach handball team were fined for wearing shorts, not bikini bottoms, despite the men’s beach handball team having always worn shorts.

    Sexism in sport still very much exists – but it is changing. While the handball team were fined, when similar moves were made in gymnastics a few months ago, the German federation (DTB) supported the move, citing that women should “always feel comfortable” in their apparel. (Sarah Voss and teammates chose to wear a full-body leotard over a skimpier one at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships).

    While seeing a female athlete in a bra isn’t revolutionary – far from it – the moment will stick in my mind for a long time as it quite literally demonstrated the evening of the playing field. Women are finally being viewed as equals and the game on par with the male equivalent.

    That the focus is on the football, rather than what gender the athletes are who are playing, indicates a marked shift in attitude to, say, ten years ago. More of this direction please.

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