Hope FC's Shura, Mel C, Marika Hackman, Jasmine Jethwa, Olivia Dean

Hope FC: roaring the Lionesses on to World Cup glory

Hope FC and Sports Team's Al Greenwood takes M inside the making of Call Me A Lioness, a song the England women's football team can call their own.

  • By Al Greenwood
  • 21 Jul 2023
  • min read

This week, Hope FC released Call Me A Lioness to coincide with the start of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023.

The Lionesses’ victory on home soil at last summer’s Euros marked a watershed moment in British sporting history. I was lucky enough to be at the game, and, like most of life's formative experiences, I associate the distinct memories of that day with music. Yet somewhat ironically, all of the songs that were belted out in BOXPARK after the match were written for the England men’s team, with markedly ill-fitting lyrics referencing ‘30 years of hurt’.

Glen Roberts was celebrating from home by FaceTiming his eight-year-old goddaughter, who asked the obvious question of the man she perceived to know everything about music: ‘Why don’t we have a song?’ The astute insight of youth rang loudly in Glen’s ears, and the very next week he picked up the phone to singer/songwriter Olivia Dean, and together they got to work.

'When Glen rang me with the idea of writing a song for the Lionesses, I said yes instantly,’ Olivia explained earlier this week. 'It felt important that they have their own anthem as they are creating their own legacy. We wanted to make a song that gives girls a soundtrack to their pride of the Lionesses and of being a woman, and to unite everyone in that pride.’

I was lucky enough to be sent the demo while on tour in the US with my band, Sports Team. The moment I heard the track a smile spread across my face, and I jumped at the opportunity to get involved. Thanks to my work in football - volunteering as a coach and creative-directing projects with my collective INMOTION - I was able to get thoroughly stuck in.

As we approached the recording date, an all-star cast of British female artists came together to, rather fittingly, assemble an 11-strong team: Olivia Dean, Melanie C, Self Esteem, Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell, Marika Hackman, Rachel Chinouriri, Shura, Jasmine Jethwa, Rose Gray, Highlyy and myself.

The beauty of this line-up is in how it spans different genres and career stages, with the likes of Olivia having just released her debut album while Mel C is a longstanding national icon. This diversity perfectly reflects that of the women’s football community, as well as its level of inclusivity. All of the artists approached the project with the kind of enthusiasm and excitement which has grown around the women’s game.

‘It’s been amazing to see the popularity of women’s football grow, and [the Lionesses'] incredible win last year was a huge inspiration for this new song for the world cup,’ Mel C said about her involvement in Hope FC. ‘I’m so privileged to be involved with a whole host of amazing female artists, cheering on our women's team to bring it home again!’

'The diversity of Hope FC perfectly reflects that of the women’s football community, as well as its level of inclusivity.'

The group has come together under the name Hope FC, a nod to English women’s football legend Hope Powell. This reference is also significant in denoting the years of activism that took place following the FA's ban on women’s football in 1921. The women's game's heritage is one of struggle, and while the ban was rescinded in 1971, women’s football has been systematically underfunded. I experienced this lack of investment first-hand during my childhood: I was a fanatical football player throughout primary school, but, upon hitting puberty, I lacked the confidence or infrastructural support to keep playing. This narrative is strikingly common for people of my generation, and depressingly girls are twice as likely to drop out from sport aged 14 as boys. Much like the music industry, one of the key challenges has been a lack of visible role models in the space.

‘I used to play for the Manchester City youth team, so football has always been a massive part of my life,’ Shura said of her footballing experience. ‘When I was a kid I used to dream about playing in the Euros/World Cup. Back then I used to dream of playing for the men's team because women's football was so underfunded. I managed to watch the final at Wembley when the Lionesses won and honestly it was one of the most emotional experiences I've ever had. I wish I could have told kid me that one day I'd be in a full Wembley stadium watching the England women's team lift a trophy while texting my family about it, who were all watching at home. I'm so happy that a new generation of kids get to grow up with these amazing players as examples.’

Importantly, all the money raised from Call Me A Lioness will go towards supporting the work of four amazing charities that use football as a vehicle to improve the lives of women and non-binary people. Street Soccer London utilises the power of football to create lasting positive change in the lives of socially disadvantaged adults and young people, while Girls United offer free training sessions to girls aged 5-18 to empower people through football. Then there’s Football Beyond Borders, who run sessions using football to re-engage young people in their education and communities, and Manchester Laces, which began as a grassroots football club but today have over 500 adult players. With the help of our contribution, they are aiming to expand to offer free sessions to combat the drop-off of players as they hit puberty.

These charities have been working in this space for years to establish opportunities for more women and NB people to access football, and hopefully the money raised through the track can facilitate them reaching even more people. I'm also confident that the song will perform an equally important role of closing the cultural gap in the women’s game, offering fans an anthem to sing when the Lionesses (hopefully) lift the trophy in a month’s time.

For these reasons alone, Call Me A Lioness offers a joyful invitation to get behind the Lionesses this summer. Yet the undeniably catchy nature of the melodies and whole energy of the song is as uplifting as the world of women’s football itself. As Olivia so aptly put it: 'Whenever I hear Call Me A Lioness I think about being in a beer garden singing it at the top of my lungs with my friends. That is the feeling we wanted to capture in the song, togetherness.’

I look forward to seeing this reality for many years to come.