How footballer Leah Williamson became captain of England

In this i-D and Nike film, we trace the inspirational player’s rise from the muddy pitches of Milton Keynes to the upcoming UEFA Women's Euro 2022.

by Hydall Codeen
24 June 2022, 10:06am

Leah Williamson’s 18th birthday wasn’t like the typical 18th birthday. While most girls her age would head out on the town to party, Leah celebrated by signing her first professional contract with Arsenal – the team she had supported all her life. But it would be wrong to paint this as the start of a journey that, earlier this year, saw Leah named captain of England for the upcoming UEFA Women's Euro 2022 tournament. It was instead the result of years of dedication, hard work – and sacrifice, both on her part and that of her proud and supportive family unit.

Leah played alongside and against boys from the age of just six. Leah’s mum insisted she play in a gum shield each week, in case she was on the receiving end of any tough tackles. Often the only girl on the pitch, she remembers being abused from the sidelines.

But it was coming through such challenges that made Leah the player she is today. A wonderfully elegant, ball-playing and -carrying centre half who routinely runs entire games from the base of the team – and above all else, an inspirational and talismanic leader.

In this film created with Nike, we return to Leah’s hometown of Milton Keynes to tell the story of her career – and her life – so far. We meet the family members who instilled in her the responsible, caring, courageous values that have seen her become the figurehead for a generation of girls awakening for the first time to the possibilities of women’s football. Young girls who see what Leah has done and see no reason why they can’t do it themselves – writing their own story out there on the pitch, no longer the sole domain of their brothers and male schoolmates.

Leah Williamson crouching on a football pitch with a ball

From the humble, drizzle-strewn playing fields of Milton Keynes, Leah has blazed a trail towards the big time. Growing up, the floodlights and the fury of English football called out to her through the TV screen. And with the unwavering support of her family and a succession of youth coaches and talent scouts, she answered the call in the most emphatic way possible.

This is the story of Leah Williamson: Arsenal star, England captain, daughter of Milton Keynes.

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Writer Hydall Codeen
Director Tayo Yusuff
Talent Leah Williamson
Editor Max Siegal
Grader Pietro Occhiuzzi
Sound Mix Robert Colquhoun
Creative Georgina Bacchus
Account Manager Natasha Booth
Production Kate Turner, Aimee Levick and Attie Maas