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Fans react to Spain's Women's World Cup win

PIEN HUANG, HOST:

Cheers in Madrid, tears in London. Spain's national soccer team beat England today to win the Women's World Cup. The match was played in Australia but broke TV viewing records across the world. NPR's Lauren Frayer watched alongside Britons and Spaniards outside a sports bar in London, and she joins us now. Hey, Lauren.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Hi there.

HUANG: So, Lauren, were you sandwiched between rival fans? That sounds like it could be pretty awkward.

FRAYER: It totally could have been, but it wasn't. I mean, the atmosphere was festive and also serious. Everyone was, like, glued to the game. Tickets for three big fan zones here in London sold out literally within eight minutes of going online. The sports bar that I was at near Victoria Station put up giant screens outside, and people crowded around, like, literally sitting in, like, flower planters to watch. And when the final whistle blew after 13 minutes of stoppage time, here's what it sounded like.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Cheering).

FRAYER: Those are Spain fans cheering but also England fans clapping for them. I spoke to Carla Gomez. She's a Spanish computer engineer living and working in London.

CARLA GOMEZ: We've always, obviously, supported the men. And the fact that there's so many people here supporting the woman has been amazing. Like, in the offices as well, they put all the games, and I think that is really inspiring. And it's literally, like...

FRAYER: She says this is like a celebration of women's sports. And honestly, like, I expected big crowds of women, right? But where I was, it was like 50-50. There were so many men in England and Spain jerseys, and it seems like it's a blending - like, less of a distinction between men's and women's teams. And, you know, these are the national teams.

HUANG: So a lot of camaraderie there.

FRAYER: Totally.

HUANG: The Spanish team didn't have the smoothest ride to get here. I mean, they overcame what was described as a rebellion in their ranks. Can you tell us about that?

FRAYER: Yeah. So some of the Spanish players have been unhappy with their coach, and you could see that on the field. Like, at their semifinal victory, the team was celebrating in one portion of the field, and the coach was celebrating, like, kind of on his own in another part of the field. But this Spanish team got over that. Like, they didn't let what the Spanish press have called a mutiny interfere with their concentration on the field. And they really dominated this game.

HUANG: Yeah. So if this is really a celebration of women's sports, I'm wondering where we go from here.

FRAYER: Equal pay, for one thing. I mean, that's a cause that the U.S. national team has really brought to the fore internationally. Here in England, nominally, there's equal pay for international play, but club play is where the players make the big bucks. And the average male player in England's Premier League makes, like, millions a year, and the average woman makes tens of thousands a year. So they've got a long way to go.

HUANG: It's a huge difference. Yeah.

FRAYER: Yeah. I mean, also women's pro leagues - like, the best female players in the world used to go to the USA. England now has the Women's Super League. Spain has Liga F. Pien, remember that movie "Bend It Like Beckham"?

HUANG: From 20 years ago? Yeah. Yeah. I'm with you.

FRAYER: Yes. That iconic movie about girls' soccer in the U.K. So I spoke this week to the film's director. Her name is Gurinder Chadha, and she explained this metaphor in the title of bending it - like, bending the rules to achieve your goal. And she says that's what female soccer players have done in the past 20-plus years since her movie came out. Like, she made that movie in the era of stars like Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain. And she says today's stars are standing on their shoulders.

GURINDER CHADHA: That they are reaping the rewards of all the women that have gone before them, who have helped popularize the game, made the game what it is. That's bending it. That's right (laughter).

HUANG: And that's what she means by bending it like Beckham. Thanks, Lauren.

FRAYER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.