With football fever taking hold in France amid sell out crowds, record scorelines, and some memorable matches, the 2019 Women’s World Cup is now in full flow and is grabbing the attention of fans around the world. From the USA’s record 13-0 win over Thailand last week to Chile goalkeeper Christiane Endler’s spectacular save to keep out Christen Press’ header on Sunday, the tournament has been full of highlights. And with Phil Neville’s England side going strong after two wins in two. fans of the Lionesses will be looking forward to their final group game against Japan followed by the excitement of the knockout stages.

Lipa Nessa, who has just completed her BA (Hons) Sports Business & Coaching degree at UCFB Wembley, is out in France working with Adidas and Youth Sport Trust on innovative promotional campaigns around women’s football and we spoke with her about her experience so far…

Tell us about the tournament. How have you found the first few days?

The welcoming of the first few days of the Women’s World Cup was filled with pure excitement. It felt like I was in a dream I had as a child. I could never have thought the women’s game would be on this scale. This will change the game, this will change women’s sports, this will increase the number of women and girls participating in sports and Physical Education.

What are your plans for the World Cup? Tell us about the work you’ll be doing while you’re in France and how it’s benefitting your career path?

During my time at the World Cup I shall be working alongside my co-host from our podcast ‘I Think She’s Offside’ to create a profile and build on who we are as women in the sports industry. During this first segment of the World Cup I will work with Adidas London to promote their Dare To Create campaign. The second segment of the World Cup I will be working with Youth Sport Trust.

Lipa presents her podcast – I Think She’s Offside – with colleague Fadumo Olow (pictured right)

What have you made of the matches so far? Have you been to any games?

The experience of the opening game was amazing. Making my way to the stadium, the hustle and bustle of your average working day in Paris merged into a mass fan base of football fans. The roads from afar looked like a blanket of red white and blue. With children chanting and the eager smiles of local business owners, I think they knew this was going to be different.

Checked by security and strolling through the red carpet, I made it to Le Parc des Princes the home of PSG, for the start of the tournament. Even though I missed the opening ceremony, the race to find my seat was hectic but organised. I finally sat down and the crowds roar vibrated through the stadium. The voices of the old, young, and new combined together to welcome the ladies for their nation take centre stage.

Lipa has been working with Adidas London to promote their Dare To Create campaign

The roaring crowd grew silent and all were up on their feet to stand for their national anthems. France and South Korea side by side, not only on the pitch but within the stands; this was not just a game, this is a whole community. The warmth from the anthem brought a sense of comfort but as the whistle went it was time for business.

The game was at full swing with France holding most of the possession in Korea’s final third, allowing for pressure to build and for Korea to make defensive mistakes. France’s Amandine Henry picked out Lyons Eugenia Le Sommer who gave France the lead on nine minutes. Sommer made history with a record time for a goal in an opening ceremony! After a few minutes Griedge Mbock scored an acrobatic shot to give France what looked like a 2-0 lead – but VAR was implemented and the goal was disallowed for offside, with the roar of the crowd turning into boos. Wendie Renard did double the host’s lead eventually though with chants of ‘Wendie! Wendie!’ erupting around the stadium. In first-half injury time, the French side showed their hunger as they kept knocking on the door, with Wendie finding the back of the net again to give France a  3-0 lead at the break.

South Korea stepped up their game in the second half. with Ji Soyun creating dangerous openings but French captain Amandine Henry finished a flowing move to put the hosts into an unassailable 4-0 lead in the 85th minute.

The crowd of over 45,000 were going wild! Grown men chanting and backing their ladies international team, kids screaming and parents trying to compose themselves. This was a magical and memorable Women’s World Cup experience.

I also attended the England Vs Scotland game in Nice. For this game I was located in a box with Adidas but just before the game, Adidas chose me to represent them on the pitch as their Adidas captain. My role was to place the game ball on the stand, making sure it faced the right way as well as having the opportunity to watch the players warm up and sing the national anthem near the pitch. I was truly living my dream!

Tell us about the fan engagement at the tournament. What events or activities are going on? And how is a Women’s World Cup different from the men’s game?

Fan engagement before the England Vs Scotland game was something to remember, the vibe around Nice was one of rivalry but peaceful rivalry. Mixed with local culture and the culture from around the world compacted into the fans zones, with chants echoing from ‘it’s coming home’ from the English fans to ‘no Scotland no party’ by the Scottish fans. As an English fan, it felt as though we were outnumbered by the Scottish, as they huddled together in various locations in Nice. The English and Scottish fans were all playing football on the streets of Nice, talking about players from each team. This was different compared to the environment found in a men’s game, this felt like a community of football fans.

Lipa: “The English and Scottish fans were all playing football on the streets of Nice.”

The women’s game is going from strength to strength and gaining in popularity around the world. As a coaching student, what are the main drivers for this growth and success?

As a coaching student and coach, the attention given to grassroots in improving, which is having a ricochet effect on other aspects of girl’s/women’s football. One example is the SSE Wildcats programme which allows for girls between the ages of 5 to 11 to try football for the first time and provides regular opportunities to play in their local communities.

For you, who are the favourites to win the trophy and why?

I have to go with the lionesses! As a nation we need to get behind these ladies as they’re changing the game and creating a new foundation for football. The challenge would be to get past the tough teams such as France, USA and Canada. If we do that then it’s definitely coming home!