search burger
search ×

What does it mean to be a sports journalist (and talk about football) in Italy?

We met Valeria Ancione, a professional journalist at the “Corriere dello Sport”, who told us about the difficulties that you encounter when you are a woman and talk, for work, who plays football.

By Giulietta Riva

The life of a woman in the world of sports is not easy, regardless. It is a problem that accompanies us women.

Because beyond the lowest salaries, the little consideration in politics, we must also suffer if we decide that our vocation is the world of football.

Valeria Ancione, originally from Messina, has been a sports journalist from almost thirty years (in 2019 she wrote Volevo essere Maradona” which we recommend you read). From basketball to football she has always followed the women who run. But what does it mean for a woman to want to live by a sport par excellence male? We asked her to.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Valeria Ancione (@valeriaancione)

Hello Valeria, what does it mean, as a woman, to work in the world of sport in Italy?

It means feeling mistrust and arrogance, especially when it comes to football. And it means to be told, after thirty years of profession, that Italy-Brazil of the 2019 Women’s World Cup do not you but a man because “you know... It’s a special game” (as a male, I add, by those who understand football); and so is the game of the quarter-finals, you are not told anything, but when you arrive at the newspaper convinced that it’s your game, the most important because for Italy is like a final, You find that the chronicle is entrusted to the colleague and you the locker room: but how was I not to deal with women’s football?

Yeah, as long as it doesn’t matter, when it starts to count, just don’t let the men take care of it. In my case, in a male sports newspaper and, alas, male chauvinist for tradition and culture, if you want to talk about football you have to be “manly”. And in general, if you’re a woman and you want to do a man thing, because there are still man things, you have to constantly prove something, which is something more. Unfortunately, what you show evaporates and if you do not renew and impose your presence every day, the added value is not used simply because it is not recognized. So what does it mean? For me it means a bit of a surrender.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Valeria Ancione (@valeriaancione)

Is there a particular moment that you remember when you approached women’s soccer?

I remember perfectly: in October 2013 I decided to tell the footballers, who then “did not exist”. I started doing interviews that turned into short stories of life. And because of that, I met some amazing women who would jump through hoops to play soccer. There was the electrician, the gardener, the one who worked at the museum and the other one at the deli, anything to be able to afford to play a ball that did not pay at all or paid little.

Then, of course, there were those like Patrizia Panico who were professional football players, but they were few, we are talking about five years ago and even less, not a century. Women’s football then became my social battle, against discrimination, prejudices, in search of space to give voice to the footballers that for me are the new feminists, those who on the field running after a ball fight for equal rights. In 2015 the real revolution began and I was with them.

That year the president of the LND, Belloli, called his members “four lesbians”, there the women’s movement said enough for ever and in the autumn there was the reform of Figc, urged by UEFA, which forced professional clubs to have a female youth sector. No more insults, respect and demands as precise as that of professionalism. The path is slow and long.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Valeria Ancione (@valeriaancione)

What difficulty does a child who wants to be a soccer player face?

Today the only difficulty that can be encountered is the prejudice of parents. There are still many who do not want their daughters to play football because it is a sport for boys, will bring you big legs and possibly you will be infected by the virus of homosexuality.

How bitter. Think what image of the kickers has been built over the years. For the rest it’s easy, there are football schools for girls, but where these are not there now is not a strange thing to see girls in teams of boys, until 14 years can play together in fact.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Valeria Ancione (@valeriaancione)

Has there been a global growth in discipline? And in Italy?

The growth of women’s football in Europe and the rest of the world has been constant and important. The membership numbers in Germany, Sweden, England, Holland, to name a few, are impressive, around two hundred thousand. Italy is far behind: we have reached thirty thousand, between senior and junior, thanks to the effect of the 2019 World Cup and also to the big clubs that now have all the categories of women from the very small to the A series.

Then, of course, also thanks to television, that before and during the World Cup really bombed us and gave life to the characters, told stories, created new myths for the girls (we hope), a bit what I had done between newspaper and site, but the TV has a power not comparable to the print press. In the United States, women’s football is very popular and has more consideration than men’s football: Alex Morgan, who I think is the highest paid soccer player in the world, is married to a footballer, Carrasco, but she is much more famous, rich and important than him. Then there is Japan which is a power.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Valeria Ancione (@valeriaancione)

Is the lack of attention given to women’s football due to the few platforms that give it to them?

Of course, visibility is fundamental and until the World Cup there was none. Now there’s Sky and Timvision, and then there’s a lot of stuff on social media, there’s an increase in women’s soccer sites, you can see interviews and goals, but we’re a long way from men’s football, as in many things, we say you have to look for women. So if you are interested look and find. If you are not you do not know.

It should also be said that since the top clubs entered, having an interview with a soccer player is almost impossible for us of the printed paper. I used to pick up the phone and call, it’s not like that anymore. They say why they treat women like men, I laugh at the difference in salaries and not only... The result is that last year, as soon as the pandemic exploded, the championship stopped and the spotlight went out, women were not spoken about and nothing was heard. Finished the World effect, without championship and then tv, they disappeared.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Valeria Ancione (@valeriaancione)

Have you ever confronted someone who belittled women’s soccer?

Always. Even today the women of football are cleared! During the World Cup in France, where the blue women were the protagonists of the moment and also the pride of the country, since the men had not qualified for their World Cup, it was a continuous “yes, however, it is not football, it is another sport”; “yes, however, they are slow”. Ultimately, women’s football is yes, but... You can not watch a ball game of women without this “yes though”, and enjoying the show, equal but different, without prejudice and discriminatory thoughts.

It is obvious that a shot in goal of Valentina Giacinti will never have the power of that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, to mention two milanist, the giant and the child. The difference between men and women is exclusively physical and athletic. Field, goal, ball, technique, tactics, rules etc. are equal. Men should watch a women’s game without comparison once and for all. Those who love football love football regardless of who plays it and always enjoys it. Football is those who love it. The truth is that there are many more women who know how to play football than men who know how to make the bed. Between the two is more difficult the first, no? The woman does not distinguish between male and female, if she wants to learn learn learn. Men defend the difference, it’s more comfortable.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Valeria Ancione (@valeriaancione)

Tell us about your book “Volevo essere Maradona”.

It is the biography of Patrizia Panico, the greatest soccer player in Italy until 2016, her last season at the age of 41, closed by vice top scorer, twenty years of career always at the top and a collection of impressive numbers and records. But of her, of her history, who knew if not a small world? In Italy still today, women’s football is Carolina Morace, it’s a limit.

After Morace, great no doubt, there were twenty years of Panic and those of his generation that are also the soccer players who created the preconditions of the football revolution today. I mean, I thought it was okay to put your story in writing so it could stay forever. We started dating, she told me and I wrote, without a criterion and an order.

It was hard to keep up with her, she started working with the National (another record, Panic was the first woman in the world to coach a men’s national team even though young, the under 15, and now is also deputy of the Under 21, what really sensational a woman to be on the technical staff of the National Team just below the Major) and we gave up a bit. Reading the notes, I realized I had the most beautiful material of his life.

I was thinking of Open’s biography of Agassi, the part that fascinated me the most was that of him as a child: how, where and when did a sample come from? It is born there, when play and effort are confused and you think that the pleasure of playing is worth the effort, the sacrifice. I told the story of Patrizia from eight years to twenty: how, from where, when she became a champion. I wanted to be Maradona is the story of a girl in love with the ball, who is allowed to play with friends on the street because she is not a female Maradona is the strongest of all.

It’s the story of an unconscious struggle against discrimination, prejudice, bullying, but also the story of a family like so many, where parents separate and children suffer and invent strategies, where love and union with the sister is fundamental for the growth of Patrizia, as for anyone with brothers, especially in a suburb of Rome like Tor Bella Monaca where getting lost is a moment and football saves your life. But above all it is the story of a dream and the determination to reach it.

I told Patrizia that we had to tell the boys. We had to tell them that they have the right to dream even the most unthinkable or absurd dreams. She thought that hers was a story like any other and instead it became a novel, with many beautiful characters that gravitate around it, some real others invented but plausible.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Valeria Ancione (@valeriaancione)

You have a daughter, if she told you she wanted to be a soccer player, what would you recommend?

I’d take you to the first company right away and advise you to have fun and make a lot of friends. Team sport is absolutely essential for the complete growth of a person. Football or basketball, with which I grew up, makes no difference. Living in sports, if you’re allowed, must be beautiful, if I had the body this was my dream.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Valeria Ancione (@valeriaancione)

Which soccer player do you think best represents women’s football?

Morace and Panico, in the common imagination, especially male, will forever be the female football. But if we talk about those who play today, the names are those of the strikers, Cristiana Girelli, Barbara Bonansea, Valentina Giacinti. It’s easy if you score and you’re also beautiful...

Then there are the exceptions of the defenders: Sara Gama, who really is the female football for the battles she has always carried out putting face and effort and effort; then I would say Alia Guagni, now at Atletico Madrid, less character, but really a power on the field, It’s so nice to see you start running like a hundred-meter.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Valeria Ancione (@valeriaancione)

Will there ever be a day when women’s matches will fill the stadiums like men’s stadiums in Italy?

No.