First player to graduate with honors from Coverciano, leading the rise of the Rossoneri in women’s football too: “Mistrust, discrimination? Often the problem is exploitative messages”
Upon closer examination, there is no shortage of similarities: a past as an attacking midfielder in Florence, an important life experience in Milan, his first real managerial commitment as a sporting director. If three guides perform a quiz, its in a tag Manuel Ruy Costa – Her idol as a soccer player – Elizabeth Spina She respects the stages of the profession that, having hung up her shoes, promised herself to lead her to the center of youth growth, transforming her passion into craft of a lifetime.
And if you’re on your way across a legend like Paul MaldiniTo be able to understand the examples and suggestions, it can be said with certainty that Women in Milan He found in his sports director, in fact, in his country Women’s soccer managera well-prepared and ambitious guide to further the development of the tainted Rossoneri movement since its inception.
Next to a man from Italy’s champion Milan, there is a woman who is growing tremendously under him. Can you tell us a little bit about your story and what led you to take on this role in The Rossoneri?
I had a background as a player at a historic moment when the possibilities for women’s football were decidedly less. This is also why, in parallel with my football career, I have always tried to invest in studying and creating a job opportunity for the future. When Milan called me I was working with guys in men’s football and now I’m here to make my contribution to a great project. Building something beautiful and making an impact on the club’s future fills me with pride.
She was the first player to achieve a UEFA A license with full marks at Coverciano, yet now finds herself as one of the best women’s football managers in Italy. From the field to behind the desk, why?
Sometimes opportunities are created that show us what is the right path for us. My goal was to turn my passion into a job and not rule out the possibility of returning to coaching in the future, perhaps in the very distant future. but if I were to do it, it would certainly be with very young boys or girls, perhaps more for pleasure than business.
Let’s talk about results and the first team. In Serie A, finally professional, you allowed yourself the luxury of beating Juventus and then being surprised by Pomigliano and Como. What goals have you set for yourself with Maurizio Ganz and his daughters?
Our goals for this season have remained the same despite encountering some unexpected difficulties: even today we know we haven’t been able to achieve the expected results. Naturally, for the jersey we wear, there is a need to give more continuity to the victories. Today we should focus not so much on the end goal as on restoring confidence race after race.
Given the progress of the youth teams, it seems that the future of the Rossoneri’s colors is very rosy. What guidance does your department provide to the different teams?
Last year we completed the youth sector series by participating for the first time in the Primavera championship, we won the title with the under-17 team and this is the result of the work that has been carried out since the start of the project and for this I thank Gianfranco Parma, the current head of the women’s youth sector. The aim is to grow and best represent our club, which has such an important history. Among the future goals is to bring as many players as possible from the youth sector into the first team. It’s an important historic period with the first year of professionalism and hopefully there will be more and more girls who want to play and more and more families willing to support their journey.
In sports, especially at the youth level, we are witnessing very questionable dynamics: for example, in gymnastics, many adolescents have shown great pressure as a function of performance. What antibodies can a movement like yours and a club like AC Milan have, also in view of the professionalism that we hope will expand in the coming years?
When working with young people, one should always approach oneself with a great sense of responsibility. Those who work with young people not only influence their passion or the future of football but the trajectory of their lives. To date, there are no episodes in women’s soccer that cause girls to be unable to express themselves or perform due to incorrect requests from those they work with. However, we must be careful that this does not happen in the future, as the pressures should only increase.
In your work, do you experience more discrimination or mistrust from male workers?
Based on my personal experience, I can say that I consider myself lucky. But we do know that there have been cases that have come up, especially overseas, in which players have lodged complaints. In my travels I have found many men who make their skills and professionalism available and always have great respect, both for women and professionals.
Just last year, like Milan, we energized the #WeAllAreFootball project to promote gender equality, part of the broader “RespAct” manifesto for social justice, equality, and inclusivity. The goal is to be able to support both the girls and the staff in being clear, not misunderstanding, and not playing around with some of the messages among their values. We often talk about episodes of discrimination that a player can be a victim of, but it is also true that sometimes, well-intentioned messages can be exploited. It is important that the protections go both ways: the players and professionals who work at this club must feel safe at all times.
Her mother was born and raised in Sweden, a country where women’s football has been around for a number of years. What difference still exists between women’s Italian football and foreign football in Northern Europe or the United States and in what aspects?
At the moment, the main difference is only in the duration of the flight. The path in Italy is very short, despite the fact that today players have more opportunities than can be found in other contexts. However, the length of the course means there are more prepared countries too thanks to more members at youth and professional levels. We will reach this point in a few years too thanks to the cultural change that will give its benefits over time.
In men’s football, they have recently cleared the number of the female referee, while for the coach we have to go back more than 20 years ago with the experience of bankruptcy of Carolina Moras at the helm of Viterbo. Are we on paths that will never meet again?
When I joined the Uefa A course, one of the questions they asked me was: “Do you dream of coaching a men’s team in the first division?”. My answer is that I hope that one day women will be given the opportunity to be part of the work team. For us women, it is important to sit alongside male professionals, who have a historical background of skills and experience that, thus far, is greater than our own. Once it is recognized that a woman has access to this bag of skills, it will be possible to assess whether or not she is ready to sit on a men’s bench in Serie A.
The World Cup gave a huge boost to women’s football in Italy in 2019: however, our national team returned from a very disappointing European tournament. What do you think we should expect from Azzurre?
The European Championship was also a disappointment due to the high expectations generated by the World Cup with surprising and unexpected results. What the women’s national team managed to achieve in France in 2019 was extraordinary and beyond the value of any single player at that time. Hence, creating expectations by following something out of the ordinary can be counterproductive. But it should also be noted that Italy qualified for the World Cup for the second time in a row. So I would just like to wish the Azzurre all the best, hoping that their findings provide more benefits to the entire movement.
Is there a role model as a former football player that you are today as a coach?
As a footballer, Rui Costa was one of my role models because of the similarity of role and characteristics. Today I think having the chance to meet Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara on a daily basis is really an added value. For me, Paulo represents the history of the club and also a role model. Every day I can touch on what he did first as a player and then as a coach, and I can realize the true values of this shirt, what it means to work for Milan and be part of this family. One of my goals is to be able to pass all this on to my players, both in the first team and in the youth sectors.
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