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The reinassance of women's football in Italy

From Serie A to the National Team: history and future of the Italian female football movement

The reinassance of women's football in Italy From Serie A to the National Team: history and future of the Italian female football movement

In music it’s often said, ironically and with a touch of bitterness, that all the news arrive in Italy with ten, twenty, years of delay.

Whether it’s true or not, this image is consistent with the growth of the Italian women's football movement. Just this year important changes seem to have taken place: professional teams like AS Roma, Juventus and Inter are investing a lot, we’re finally starting to see the women's Serie A matches on television and next summer there will be the World Cup, with Italy finally qualified and with a competitive team after a few grey years.

Honestly the Italian movement has so much to recover compared to the European one, but it seems finally to have been embarked on a promising path. 

The beginnings

The first women's soccer world championship took place in 1991, in Japan, won by USA, which in 1999 hosted the third edition of the FIFA Women World's Cup.

It is during that edition that many things started to change in this world, in terms of perception and follow-up for women's football. About 700 thousand people followed the course of the event, the finals between United States (once again victorious) and Germany, saw the audience at about 90 thousand spectators, a record still undefeated for a women's sporting event.

Shortly, thanks above all to the incomparable media machine of the USA, the new millennium means great growth in the world of women's football; first of all, obviously for the United States, a country where the female national team is still followed by twice the number of men compared to men and where "soccer" is the most practiced sport  by young girls at a youth level; but also for Asian countries like Japan and China, or those of northern Europe like Germany, Sweden and Norway. And Italy? Italy has lagged behind. In that World Cup we went out against Germany, Brazil and Mexico and since then we were not able to qualify for the next editions, with the ironic exception of the 2019 edition which will be hosted by France; obviously ironic given the historic failure to qualify by the men's national team at the recent world cup in Russia.


In Italy

The institutional birth of the Italian Women's Football Federation took place in 1968 and due to a strange coincidence, the first national championship was won by Genoa, just as it was for the first men's championship in 1898.

It's only since the 80s, however, that the federation, following a series of vicissitudes, is finally recognized by the CONI: it says a lot, on the consideration of the women's football, the fact that in the start the referees were the decommissioned by age limits by the FIGC: a used safe, no longer good for men but what do we care, they’re are girls. Despite the very little consideration and a follow-up not even comparable to the male counterpart, during the '90s the national team touched the Europeans twice, finishing second in '93 and ’97.

As for the youth sectors, only in 2000 the teams participating in the top flight begin to have a team under 20, but still have to spend several years before things changed further. Only since 2015, in fact, the FIGC has engaged in a series of initiatives and reforms aimed at improving, qualitatively and quantitatively the state of women's football. Starting from the 2016/17 season then finally comes the first of two fundamental turning points in the last two years: the professional clubs make their entry into the world of women's football: some form teams from scratch or, like Juventus with Como, they buy titles of already existing formations. This passage is fundamental to give more credibility to a movement victim of prehistoric and meaningless laws, which in defining professionalism speak only to the male. Consequently, all athletes, even those who have dedicated their lives to football and practice it (when possible, unfortunately not often) as their sole profession, can not be registered as professional athletes.


For example, we are talking about two incredible personalities like Milena Bertolini, former player and now coach of the national team, with an enviable record of victories both as a player and as a coach and who has also held important institutional roles within the FIGC; or Carolina Morace, also a former player with twelve Italian championships on the bulletin board and now AC Milan's technical team: on the other the two are the only Italian techniques qualified for training a men's team of Seria A.

Among the players in business is impossible not to mention Sara Gama, defender, captain of Juventus and the national team, internationally recognized as among the best in her role or Regina Baresi, daughter of Beppe and grandson of Franco, Inter captain as his father.

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The entry into the field of the most important clubs of our peninsula can play an important role in this process, as well as bringing with it a slice of a purely male public.

Another fundamental novelty is that from this current season, 2018/19, given the recent excellent results of the national teams and a program of youth growth that seems to provide its fruits, the FIGC is taking directly into the hands of the organization of the championships of Serie A and B.

Not only that, what many hope will be the real breakthrough, happens with the acquisition of television rights by Sky Sport, which has signed a long-term agreement engaging in live broadcasting of a match a week and in the airing of a palimpsest of in depth on the subject. We are well aware of the importance of television rights at an economic and visibility level: they are there to show it the recent vicissitudes of this summer, with a struggle went on for months about the transmission rights of the men's Seria A.

This year's championship sees, what a surprise, the champions in charge of Juventus, but there are also Milan, AS Roma, Fiorentina, Sassuolo and Verona, among the formations linked to professional clubs; Inter has only recently been added and will start from Serie B. The Italian movement has much to recover compared to the European one, but it seems finally to have been embarked on a promising path. Perhaps for this reason the Serie A is becoming more and more a landing place for foreign soccer players, especially those who want to develope the technical aspect of the game, recognized as the strong point of our championship: Emma Lipman, who grew up in Manchester City passed to Verona and now plays for AS Roma, Katie Zelem, from Liverpool to Juventus or Ellie Brazil to Fiorentina, they are just some of the last names of players coming from foreign championships who come to Italy to improve their game.

Football in Italy is lived every day with an intensity with few comparisons in the rest of the world, yet for some reason women football’s has never really entered our hearts. One wonders how this is due to a "visual" factor, since it is certainly a different experience - not better or worse, simply different - watching a female match, how much is related to the aura of amateurism in which is covered , as already mentioned for the fault of obsolete laws and the inadequacy of the institutions; but, rather, a basic sexism inherent in our society, both in the social fabric and in its top that denying would simply mean denying reality and above all not recognize the problem and then postpone its solution.

A fundamental role in this process of change therefore, we certainly play it for us football lovers, especially us male lovers of the game. We must try to change the narrative and the image full of clichés and false myths that has been created in the beautiful country around the women's football, to ensure that even the same women are more encouraged, safer, that do not perceive the choice of play football as something brave, or an outsider choice, against everything and everyone.

For now we can be sure that there is a ferment and attention unprecedented in the field and we can only hope that finally even the girls can have the attention they deserve, given the excellence and efforts made by many of the historical protagonists and new actors who seem to be able to bring that something missing to bring Italian women's football to the level of the major European and world nations.