The current generation of professional female footballers are a unique group in the history of the women’s game.
They are a generation that will define the transition between two very different eras, and each and every player has an inspirational and motivational story to share with the next generation for which they have built a solid foundation.
Olympique Lyonnais and England defender Lucy Bronze is one such player, and having faced the familiar challenge of being told as a child that her gender would prevent her from pursuing her passion in the game, she defied convention with the support of a strong feministic family to succeed against the odds.
Achieving glory as a key player for both club and country, Bronze has embraced the necessary team culture required to succeed, but she was recently honoured as an individual by claiming the 2019 UEFA Best Women’s Player in Europe award.
International duty prevented her from accepting her prize at the glittering star-studded event in Monaco, but her presence on the field rather than off it at that time seemed a more natural and comfortable fit.
Bronze’s recognition has made her a role model for young female players, and the ten-fold increase in the profile of the women’s game across the world means that she is not alone.
Her England team mates all have similar stories to Bronze, but she is the first to claim this prestigious individual prize. It perfectly compliments her two UEFA Women's Champions League winners' medals.
Football is a team game and her success could not have been achieved solo, but her personal dedication to her passion made it her profession, and her drive and desire has brought deserved reward.
Megan Rapinoe edged the equivalent FIFA award following her contribution to the United States’ success at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
A figure who made a significant impression off the field as much as she did on it, she cuts a very different character to Bronze, but can be considered equally inspirational.
Between them, they represent two different styles of player and person on either side of the Atlantic, and scale the role model spectrum in symbolising what can be achieved.
Using the platform of her success for the greater good, Rapinoe has unselfishly used her elevated profile in the game to address political matters, homophobia and racism over the course of the last calendar year.
Outspoken, she displays the determination and confidence that female players like Bronze needed to make the grade in their formative years. Her approach will not be to everyone’s taste, but her stance demands respect all the same.
But not every young female footballer will resonate with Rapinoe and her controversial style. In contrast, Bronze displays the hard work ethic in her personal and professional life that others will relate to.
Bronze will achieve much more success in her career, and she can sit at the top table of the women’s game for a few more years to come. Turning 28 next month will not deter her away from her focus of pushing herself further for both club and country.
Veteran figures like Marta continue to use their status in the women’s game to ensure that the next generation has the mental strength to embrace the opportunities that a changing attitude has provided them with.
The next generation will not struggle like the last, and that is solely through the determination of players like Bronze to not let society and culture of the past restrict their ambition. Her UEFA award is testament to her journey as much as her success.
From the suffragettes to the Spice Girls, female role models come in very different shapes and sizes. With the women’s game embracing a new era of media profile and interest, it is sport that now leads this particular female movement.
Bronze is the English golden girl of the current generation, and her story should be widely-shared to inspire. Recognised by those in her profession, the platform has been created for wider recognition by those that aspire to follow her incredible lead.
Without her UEFA award, Bronze is only one of a squad of players for both club and country. It is this individual recognition that allows her unique story, and the challenges that she has faced, to be shared to a global audience.
She may not have the character of Rapinoe to take the verbal lead, but that does not make her journey to the top any less inspirational.
More young girls will relate to Bronze and her story, and she can be proud of her contribution to both the current state, and the future, of the women’s game.