Even my dog gets recognised now, says Lioness Lucy Bronze after collecting MBE

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Lionesses Beth Mead and Lucy Bronze said women’s football has become so popular that their dogs now get recognised, even if they are not walking them.

Speaking at Windsor Castle after receiving their MBEs for services to football from the Prince of Wales, the pair said the buzz created when the England women’s team won the 2022 European Championship was more than they had dreamed.

Bronze, 31, told the PA news agency: “The one thing now is even my dog gets recognised. Even if I am not walking her people know who my dog is.

“Although the Euros took us by storm, it was kind of brewing for a long time before then.

“We are doing so well in our own right and selling out the Emirates (Arsenal’s stadium) and the FA Cup Final. I play at Camp Nou (Barcelona’s stadium) in front of 70,000-80,000 people.

“These things are becoming more regular and people are appreciating our sport for the thing it is. It is kind of getting to the place I think we all hoped it would get eventually.”

Despite having surgery last month, the Barcelona player is confident she will be fit for the sport’s biggest games – the Champion’s League Final on June 3 and the Women’s World Cup this summer.

Bronze added: “I think (the World Cup) is really far in the future and I should be back training within a few weeks now. The surgery was two weeks ago but very minor compared to some of the other girls.

“My challenge by the end of the season was to do an interview in Spanish. I’m hoping to get back fit for the Champion’s League Final and we’ll see if I can whip up a couple of sentences in Spanish to say on TV.”

Mead is also recovering from a knee injury and expects to be unable to play for the next four months, making her chances of playing at the World Cup slim.

Investitures at Windsor Castle
Luther Blissett swapped footballing tales with the Prince of Wales after being made an OBE during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The 28-year-old, who was joint winner of the Golden Boot at the 2022 Euros, told PA: “I’m back on the pitch, back kicking a ball. So it’s starting to be a little bit more normal again, but it’s been a long, tough period.

“I will try my hardest to get as close to that as possible. But (the World Cup) may be a little bit too soon for me this time around.”

The pair swapped their football kits for suits and high heels for the ceremony in Windsor, surprising William, who has previously met them during training or after matches.

Bronze said: “The first thing Prince William said was ‘Oh, I’m not used to seeing you dress differently’ because obviously he came to a lot of the things before the Euros and he has come to see us before in training. I made sure I did my hair for my nan.”

For the players the MBEs are another sign of how far women’s football has come.

Mead said: “As an England squad we wanted to provide a legacy for young girls and boys to excel in football and make it such a big prospect. We didn’t want it to then become just a buzz over a few months and then it fizzle off again.”

Investitures at Windsor Castle
Wildlife campaigner Dame Virginia McKenna dedicated her honour to ‘all the wild animals who are still in captivity and probably will be for many years to come’ (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The Arsenal footballer, who won BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2022, added: “We would love the full team to have got this (MBE) but we’re here and we’re flying the flag for the England team and the women’s game in general.

“We want to support and do the best that we can to get (women’s football) to the next level and it’s exciting seeing from when I started out at Arsenal six years ago to where the game is at now. We want the next generation to be even better than we are now.”

The European champions were among 59 people receiving honours at Windsor Castle on Wednesday, including wildlife campaigner Dame Virginia McKenna and former Watford footballer Luther Blissett, who was one of the most prominent black players in the 1970s and 1980s.

Dame Virginia dedicated her honour to “all the wild animals who are still in captivity and probably will be for many years to come”, while Blissett swapped footballing tales with the prince, who told him he had recently been playing 11-a-side.