Young and Mighty: C.F Florentia
C.F. Florentia, hailing from the Tuscan capital, is the highest ranking team that is exclusively dedicated to the women’s game. The team has no affiliation with a men’s club, making the squad a crucial pioneer in the fight for equality in female football. Since their founding in 2015, they have secured three successful promotions to make it to the top flight.
The team is comprised of both home grown and international talent and some of its individual members are making their own impressive contributions off the pitch. In terms of their performance on the pitch, they just finished their debut season in the Serie A with a sixth place finish.
Florentia is dedicated to the youth and to putting calcio femminile centre stage for the world to witness. Two players stand out for their efforts.
Giulia Ferrandi is a 27-year-old midfielder. She made her start at Atalanta but continued on to play in London for West Ham and Watford before returning to Florence. She has battled injuries over the recent years of her career but this has not stopped her from being an instrumental figure in football.
About a year ago, Ferrandi founded her own radio show Donne in Goal. “I started working on my radio show to share what women’s football in Italy is,” she said.
The radio show covers everything female football related in Italy. It presents news, league tables, and interviews with leaders in the sport. They have recently broadcasted their twentieth episode and Ferrandi says that the show is gaining rapid traction.
Ferrandi spoke about the intense determination that the female players in Italy have. The women practice in the evening due to the fact that most of them work other jobs in addition to football. In addition, she said that training times are always worked around the men’s schedule.
“I have to work and play at the same time to have both a CV for my future and to give myself more opportunities,” she said. “We don’t even necessarily want the same pay. We just want to be considered professional. We want a contract. We aren’t playing for money. We are playing because we’ve always dreamt to play. To be an example for people who don’t believe in us,” Ferrandi said.
Ferrandi said that she never believed it was going to be possible to be a professional player as a young girl. “When I started to play football, I just wanted to have my name on the back of the jersey,” she said.
Hailai Arghandiwal is the 23-year-old midfielder who came straight from Santa Clara University in the US. She is a first generation Afghan American and has an array of international playing experience.
“I joined Afghanistan’s national team at the age of fourteen. I think that this experience really changed my purpose as a footballer. Hearing the stories of the Afghan women really opened my eyes. It made me realise that I had the resources. I knew I was playing for a top competitive American team and I was en route to get scouted for a division I University. These are opportunities that these women would die for,” she said.
Arghandiwal knew that she wanted to continue to play the sport abroad. “The sport in Italy is definitely still a men’s game. People in Italy are surprised and shocked when I tell them that I play professional football. I think and hope they are shocked in a good way,” Arghandiwal said.
Both Ferrandi and Arghandiwal mentioned two words when asked to define calcio femminile: youth and fight. They agree on the fact that the foundation for the professional women’s game must start with the younger divisions.
“Everyone is playing catch up. In America, we had so many teams available. Here in Italy, the players didn’t have the resources at a younger age. Home grown talent is everything. I think Italy needs to push for these youth levels and academies,” Arghandiwal said alluding to her youth football experience in the US.
“We need to introduce this sport at school in Italy. Any kind of sport teaches you something. I would not be the same person I am today without football,” Ferrandi said.
Both players spoke highly of the future of their young but mighty team, Florentia. They also mentioned the fact that the World Cup makes this a crucial time for the sport in Italy.