Le Giallorossi: Roma’s Finest
For decades, it has been common to see AS Roma kits worn by fans in Rome and around the world; now women can don their own jersey too. One mere year ago it was announced that Roma would enter a women’s team into the following season’s Serie A division.
Their debut season proved that the team has a strong foothold in the women’s competition and fight for equality in the sport. The team is coached by Elisabetta, or “Betty,” Bavagnoli, who was recently named the Serie A Coach of the Year and was awarded Italy’s Panchina D’oro. Bavagnoli can certainly be deemed an icon of Italian football.
Bavagnoli has multiple decades’ worth of experience in the football world. She has been a player, manager, and head coach for both men’s and women’s teams in Europe and North America. She played matches with the Italian national team and coached Canada to win the Gold Cup in 2010. There are few people out there who have witnessed the evolution of female football quite like she has.
“Italy has long been behind the countries of northern Europe in terms of the inclusion of girls in the world of football; when I toured Europe as a player of the National team I saw a world that did not exist in Italy. Now the situation is completely different, gigantic steps have been taken in the last three / four years,” she said.
Bavagnoli has also served as a nationwide spokesperson, spreading awareness about sexism in the sport. Bavagnoli mentioned the fact that for a long time male players did not understand the fundamental differences between the men’s and women’s sport, ultimately casting a major divide.
“Perhaps the problem is the fact that men who watch a women’s football match for the first time expect to see a match with the same pace and intensity as a men’s soccer match. On the positive side, the outside world has started to notice that even girls are able to play football. But still on the other hand, many do not have the tools to understand that the women’s game is a sport with different characteristics than its male counterpart,” Bavagnoli said.
She said two words when asked to define female football: pure and for the dreamer.
Bavangoli mentioned that the women’s sport does not entail some of the negative characteristics of the men’s game, like unsportsmanlike fouls and racism. “On the female side of things. It is a genuine sport,” Bavagnoli said. She said that it should stay that way.
Bavagnoli’s team ended their first season with a fourth-place finish in the Serie A and a semi-final position in the Coppa Italia. The team is versatile in experience and age and hungry for competition.
Many of the players have been fans of beloved Rome since they were young girls. In terms of the team’s actual makeup, they are Italian by nature, but also have many international players to boast about.
Elisa Bartoli is the captain, who formerly played for Fiorentina but returned to play for her native city, Rome. She is the fullback of the national team with a number of Serie A trophies and Champions League feats in her repertoire.
Allyson Swaby comes from the US college network, perhaps the most advanced platform in female soccer. Swaby plays for the Jamaican national team and is looking ahead to the World Cup.
“Being the first to wear the AS Roma jersey as a woman is an incredible honour and something special that I will always share with my teammates. The city has grown to love our team and I know we’ll see even greater support in the upcoming season,” Swaby said.
Swaby went on to talk about her own goals for achieving equality in football.
“I’d love to see the continuation of major men’s sides adopting women’s programs. I want to see less firsts and more normalcy within the women’s games. This year has shown tremendous growth of the women’s game globally and I hope to see continued investment in our programs,” she said.
When asked to give a piece of advice to a young girl with dreams to play football Bavagnoli said, “I would tell her to believe in what she wants to achieve and to desire it strongly.”
“Today it is not strange to see a girl with a ball between her feet,” Bavagnoli said with an optimistic attitude about the future of calcio femminile. “I am convinced that even in Italy we will come to professionalism.”
In terms of her own desires for Roma she said that she would like to win a Scudetto in the future.
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