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Kelly’s hit elicits everywhere tears of joy and a wild sensation of freedom.

If they had permitted it, Chloe Kelly could have sprinted to Hanwell. The location where she was raised with her seven siblings, banging into each other in west London’s concrete cages, is only five miles away, but it would not have mattered if it were 500 given how she and her siblings all felt. Oh, the commotion! The explosion, the discharge, everything. She had gone and done it herself. Britain had. She’d scored the winning goal. The individual they had waited so long for.

Kelly's hit elicits everywhere tears of joy and a wild sensation of freedom.

England is the champion of Europe. Indeed, England. European winners. How can you even begin to express this? A moment of such significance. The way she did, maybe. So there she was, rushing across the pitch at Wembley with teammates in pursuit, holding the historic white shirt in her hand and waving it wildly above her head. A tournament record throng of 87,192 individuals erupted around her.

Her teammates chased her and grabbed her, unwilling to let this moment pass. They will never know; it will always exist. The first-ever trophy for England’s ladies was within reach, 56 years and one day after England’s sole previous trophy victory.

When she scored, ten minutes were remaining in extra time, but that number felt increasingly unimportant as if penalties were inevitable and everyone was just waiting for the drama and anxiety. And yeah, maybe the harshness as well. In this same arena a year ago, England’s men led the European Championship final before losing on penalties. That was Italy; this was Germany, for crying out loud! Which contributed to making this experience feel even more liberating.

Kelly's hit elicits everywhere tears of joy and a wild sensation of freedom.
Kelly's hit elicits everywhere tears of joy and a wild sensation of freedom.

Ella Toone scored a magnificent goal to give England the lead one hour into a grueling, occasionally contentious encounter that had always been on the edge of its seat. A beautiful first-time pass from Keira Walsh let her advance, with time appearing to slow down. Time to contemplate, ponder, and possibly become subconsciously aware of everything this signifies. Time to weigh it as well.

Not for Toone. Her well-performed shot soared into the air, the ball descending slowly and almost serenely into the goal, viewed the entire way – in Beth Mead’s case from the corner flag, as she made her way to the bench after being hurt. Something was one of the reasons why this had not yet been completed. Lina Maghull’s brilliantly executed equalizer, which sent the match into extra time, was a just reward for Germany’s superior second-half play.

This location was tense, with a gunfight brewing. Some narratives appear to write themselves.

There is always another conclusion, and with 110 minutes remaining, an ugly goal and the most beautiful moment occurred. Lucy Bronze, who was phenomenal all night, returned a corner kick from the right and dropped it near the German goal line.

According to Kelly, she played “street football without rules” with her brothers crashing into her in the cage till nightfall. She had stated that she “would not be here” if everything had been simple. A year ago, she suffered a torn cruciate knee ligament and missed the Olympic Games; her inclusion here was uncertain. Now, when it mattered the most, she was present.

Kelly fought for the ball, even though the bodies in front of her posed no obstacle, and finally threw it over the goal line before sprinting away as millions went insane.

She leaped, rushed, screamed, and approached the touchline. Six hours before, her friends and family had stood on Wembley Way with an England flag bearing the initials of her former team, QPR, and now she stood before them with her arms crossed. The referee, Kateryna Monzul, produced a yellow card when she finally came to a stop and they were ready to resume play. She ought to request to keep it. This was her first international goal in the competition, and it was the goal.

It appeared to put an end to everything, with England now wonderfully controlling the last minutes and the ball largely maintained in the corner, as if Kelly had provided clarity. Still, the game is not done until England’s substitutes and personnel enter the field at the final whistle. Jill Scott dashed forward, the only remaining player from England’s 2009 final.

Everywhere there were tears. This meant the world to them; it was something deeper than a prize that would be studied in the days to come, but which could be savored in the present.

And Wembley erupted in Sweet Caroline, with players lining the sidelines and sprinting to join in. “It’s Coming Home” also rang out, perhaps for the final time. Once again, with emotion. People sang everywhere: in this stadium and far beyond.

Additionally in Durham, Sheffield, Whitby, Sunderland, Manchester, and Hanwell. Or, they stood there staring at it, still trying to comprehend what had just occurred. So, this is the sensation. England had accomplished it.

Kelly exclaimed, “Oh my God,” while staring up at the stadium and its loudness. “Observe them. It’s great. This is absurd! This is the stuff of dreams. I appreciate everyone who participated in my rehabilitation. I always expected to be here.”

And so it was, for 56 years, that she experienced a moment that no one else had. In many instances, forever. She had not traveled far, but she had traveled a great distance. Everyone had.


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