Tattoo Tales of England’s Women’s National Football Team

Tattoo Tales of England’s Women’s National Football Team

The women’s football FIFA World Cup is in full swing on the other side of the world. It would be amiss not to show our support and appreciation for the Lionesses. Here is the body art of some of England’s women’s national football team. But first just a tiny bit of history. 

England first formed a female football national team in 1972 –  100 years after the male team played their first international game of football against Scotland at the Hamilton Cresent in Glasgow. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. The women also played their first game against Scotland but on Greenock Morton’s ground in Greenock. They won 3-2. 

However, women’s football was incredibly popular in England already during the First World War. What started as a way for female munition factory workers to blow off some steam, culminated in 1920 with a Boxing Day match between the teams Kerr Ladies and St Helens at Everton’s Goodison Park attended by 53,000 spectators. 

women footballers on field, 1920s

Of course, this was not to be tolerated and in December 1921, the Football Association in England issued an edict saying that football was “quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.” Women were thus prohibited from using their stadiums. Fortunately, views on women in sports – and women with tattoos – have come quite a way (although often not far enough) since. 

Lions and tigers and… owls, oh my

The interim captain (stepping in for an injured Leah Williamson) of the reigning European champions, Millie Bright, is no stranger to the tattoo studio. Bucking expectations, the feline featured on Bright’s lower arm is not a lion (as favoured by plenty of male footballers and other athletes).

Instead, there is the pretty intense gaze of a tiger staring down the defender’s charging opponents on the field. Or, at least half of one – the other eye is fashioned after that of her partner. 

Photo of Millie Bright in England national team uniform
Credit: @mbrighty04

On the inside of her lower left arm is a dreamcatcher/lotus design that Bright reportedly designed herself, drawing on her mom’s words ‘dream big’ before every game she plays. She also has a black and grey owl surrounded by flowers tattooed on her upper arm, to remind her of her the Yorkshire village of Killamarsh where she grew up. 

Oh, and by the way, she has been reported to fall asleep during the actual tattooing. Of course, the level of pain we feel when getting a tiny needled pushed under our skin repeatedly is highly personal and location-dependent, but to be so relaxed that you doze off? That’s pretty badass. 

Tattooing team spirit

Bright also has several other smaller tattoos. the most recent addition to her collection is a matching tattoo with fellow Lioness Rachel Daly before heading off for New Zealand. The ½ fraction tattoos sit on each of the players’ right hands, signifying parts of a whole and their close friendship. 

Rachel Daly holding up hand to eyes
Credit: @racheldaly3

Forward Rachel Daly has a fair amount of tattoos already. There is a particularly cute (we find) teddy bear on her upper right arm, along with a collection of smaller pieces. Her lower right arm is also covered with an assortment of ink, including the words “at least until the world stops going round,” which is part of a Leeds United fan chant. Daly has said her family were massive supporters of the side growing up, and it was a “huge moment of pride” when she later went on to play for them.


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