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Ella Toone: Dreaming Big and Playing Bigger

Ella Toone is a professional football player who is taking the world by storm. Growing up in the UK, the country where male football is very popular, she continues to break barriers, paving the way for all girls who want to play on the pitch.

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls. It’s based on the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This story was produced by Joy Smith with sound design and mixing by Mumble Media. It was written by Elena Favilli and edited by Abby Sher. Fact-checking by Joe Rhatigan. Narration by Dédé Davi. Joy Smith was our executive producer. Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi. Thank you to the whole Rebel Girls team who make this podcast possible. Stay rebel!

Transcript

It was a cool summer night at the Wembley Stadium in London, England and the crowds were yelling and cheering as the national women’s football team faced off against Germany in the final game of the Euro 2022.  

This was not just another football game at Wembley. This was the first time that England’s Women’s squad, The Lionesses, had the opportunity to win a major international tournament. It was the 62nd minute and the score was still 0-0. All eyes were on Ella Toone, the young Manchester United forward who had just entered the game. 

Could she bring her team to victory before the match ended?

I’m Dédé Davi. And this is Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.

A fairy tale podcast about the real-life rebel women who inspire us. 

On this episode, Ella Toone, a fierce footballer who is changing the game for women everywhere.

Ella was born September 2, 1999 and grew up in Tyldesley, a small town only nine miles northwest of Manchester. Her family was incredibly passionate about soccer — or football, as it’s called in the UK. One day, when Ella was just a baby, her dad was playing football and a ball bounced into Ella’s stroller, knocking her over. Her dad claims that was her way of joining in the game.

From the time she was a little girl, Ella was constantly playing with her friends and cousins in the streets. Even though she was younger, she was more determined than any of them! She also played a lot with the boys from her school, staying out until everyone got called in for tea. On weekends, Ella went to watch her brother’s games. Except, she wasn’t really watching. She was usually on the sidelines, passing and shooting with all the other kids who wanted to be part of the game too.

See, women’s football wasn’t really popular yet, or much respected. But all that was about to change, thanks in part, to Ella.

When Ella was about seven, she was offered a six-week trial at the Manchester United’s Centre of Excellence. Ella was so excited — Manchester United was her favorite team!  Ella got accepted and played with Manchester United for the following seven years, training every single day and trying to get as good as another Manchester United forward, already quite famous… Cristiano Ronaldo! 

Ella never met him during those years at United, but she watched his videos and practiced his skills. After all, he wore the number seven shirt just like her!  

Unfortunately, Manchester United didn’t have a senior female team yet, so when Ella was ready to play in the senior league she had to leave and join a different team. But two years later, Manchester United got a women’s team, and Ella was so proud to come back home.

“The amount of fans was unbelievable,” Ella says. “You would never have thought there would be that many fans at a women’s game.” 

Ella was unstoppable as a midfielder on Manchester United — sprinting and attacking, launching herself toward the goal. Pretty soon, she was named Women’s Championship Player of the Month and Manchester United’s top scorer.

Which brings us back to that momentous game in 2022 against Germany at Wembley Stadium. Ella was representing her home country as part of England’s Women’s National Team, The Lionesses. She was definitely feeling as bold and feisty as a lioness too.

Ella had just come in as a substitute, when a pinpoint through-ball from midfield maestro Keira Walsh sent Ella running straight towards Germany’s goal. 

Germany’s defense swooped in to try and stop her but Ella held strong. She saw the goalkeeper coming out and chipped the ball just past her, right into the net. The stadium went wild! 

Ella felt the sea of cheers and applause lifting her up. She says it was the best feeling in the world. That day, England won the European title for the first time ever. And Ella became known as one of the strongest female football players in the world. 

Today, Ella continues to play with Manchester United and the Lionesses. She also loves speaking out about the importance of women’s football. And in 2023, she was thrilled to unveil a new football pitch named after her! Just a short distance from her hometown, the Ella Toone Pitch actually includes two full-size football turf pitches, a changing pavilion and a community café. There is plenty of space for players of all genders to come and enjoy playing, practicing and sharing their love of football. 

As Ella posted, “When I started playing football, I would of never imagined that years later I’d have a pitch named after me. I hope that this pitch will inspire others to dream big and love the game like I do.”

Dreaming big and aiming high is the rebel way. And with Ella leading the charge, anything is possible.