Juventus, who face Lyon in the quarter-finals, a symbol of the rise of women’s football in Italy

« When I hear a woman talk about tactics, it makes my stomach turn. I can’t do it », ensured in February 2019 the former Italian football world champion Fulvio Collovati, converted into a TV commentator. However, that same year, the Squadra Azzurra reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Cup in France. A competition followed by nearly 25 million spectators in the country.

Three years later, the women’s team of Juventus faces Olympique Lyonnais in the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday March 23. « Italian football is progressing and fast. The national team has shown its qualities »supported OL coach Sonia Bompastor. « Juventus have qualified for the final phase of the Champions League, it shows the quality of Italian football. They are teams that are developing well.« 

It is true that Italian women’s football is booming, both in terms of interest and practice. After the World Cup, 34.1% of Italians said they were interested in women’s football. The interest of football fans in the women’s Serie A has also increased: between 2016 and 2019, it rose from 14% to 30%, and from 11% to 22% among the Italian population over 18 years old.

The Italian Football Federation is no stranger to this new craze and is giving itself the means to advance women’s football. Since the 2018-2019 season, the body has managed the organization of high-level competitions (Serie A, Serie B, Primavera, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa).

And that direction seems to be paying off. Over the past twelve years, the number of graduates has increased by approximately 65%, from nearly 19,000 in 2008-2009 to more than 31,400 in 2019-2020. At the same time, television coverage also took a big leap forward, registering an increase of 81%.

This place that women’s football is carving out for itself in Italy is attractive. The French Alice Benoît has chosen to leave the Soyaux club to join the Italian championship this season. She is now playing in Sassuolo and does not regret her decision. « I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the championship »confides the former international tricolor U19. « It’s completely different football. In France, it’s more athletic, there are more duels. In Italy, it’s more tactical, more collective. »

In Italy, the women’s teams are attached to historic clubs, such as Juventus, Inter Milan, or AC Milan. « They have more resources, more media coverage, so development is going faster than in French football. The names of the clubs speak more to enthusiasts »remarks Alice Benoît.

She also underlines the unpredictability of encounters in the women’s Serie A: « There are more surprises in Italy than in France. To think that we can even hang Juventus, first in the championship, it’s very rewarding. In France, there is not that. There are too many gap with Lyon or Paris. You know you’re going to have to put the bus down all game and try to delay as much as possible the moment when you concede a first goal. »

Women’s Serie A will have professional league status next seasone. « The new status will ensure more security and advantages for players. More and more foreign women will arrive »projects Alice Benoît.

For its part, France continues to stagnate and does not seem to be progressing compared to other European nations. « The noose is tightening. We realize that we no longer have the advance that we could have had before. I’ve been doing it for three years »slipped Amandine Henry in an interview with Ouest France on February 22.

« It’s not moving fast enough in France »points to Alice Benoît. « There are good squads that have been built among the teams playing in the first division. But when I talk to players who play in France, we make the same observation: we are not doing enough for the condition of the players. « 

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