When Chloe Kelly pounced on a loose ball, pushing it past the German keeper in the final moments of extra time during the UEFA Women’s Euro, just over 87,000 fans shot out of their seats at Wembley Stadium.

In homes and pubs, where more than 17 million people watched on BBC – the most ever for a woman’s football, and the highest viewed program in all of 2022 – fans screamed and cheered the historic moment.

But in Canada – where women’s basketball, soccer, and hockey have all repeatedly broke viewership records over the last two years – screens were silent; the massive final was not broadcast by any major network.

“Having it broadcasted everywhere, I think, is so important. That visibility is important,” Mya Sluban said.

Sluban is no stranger to breaking barriers in women’s sport or the challenges that come with trying to grow the game.

In 2019, Sluban was the first girl to score a touchdown in varsity football in Ottawa history when she was 14. Now she plays for the Ontario women’s tackle football team, along with the Cumberland Panthers; the only all-girl program in the city.

“A lot of people think there’s a lack of interest when it comes to football for girls and there’s really no lack of interest, people just don’t know where to start,” Sluban said.

For those searching, that path is about to become significantly clearer.

The Cumberland Panthers are helping to launch the Ontario Fall Football League, Ontario’s first women’s tackle football league. It brings the province in line with New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, which all boast leagues of their own.

“These girls are pioneers for the sport and they get to set the tone,” Sluban’s father, Mark, said.

The Panthers say there has already been immense interest in their girl’s program, as well as the new Ontario League, that could include up to eight teams across the province for a six-week season.

“As we open more doors and create more opportunities, more [girls] just keep showing up and they just keep coming through the front door. We have to find more opportunities, open up new pathways, not just here in Ottawa but across the entire country,” said Mark Ouellett, the Panthers Director of Girls Programming and the head coach for Ontario’s U18 Women’s Football Team.

Sluban says it is through grassroots leagues like this and global moments, like the Euro, that women’s sport is slowly becoming more mainstream; progress she says needs to continue.

“It doesn’t really matter what sport it is but the fact that we’re getting on the field and being treated as an athlete instead of a girl on the field is really the big difference,” she said.