What Italy Can Learn From its Women’s Soccer Team

Where male-dominated soccer, politics and the economy thrive in the cult of individualism, the women work in solidarity with each other, like workers of days gone by, says Attilio Moro.

The cooperation of Italy’s women footballers is a lesson for the nation. (Wikimedia Commons)

By Attilio Moro 
in Brussels
Special to Consortium News

Having lost models of alternative values and ways of life to the religion of neoliberalism, these days Italians – and mainly the Italian Left – were content watching the matches of Italy’s national team in the women’s soccer world cup. The team won almost every match, while the national government is losing almost all of theirs: zero growth, rampant crime, dirty cities, huge public debt, high unemployment, brain drain, widespread corruption, even in the judiciary, as recently turned out.

While the female footballers were united in their performance, the central government is divided and ineffective. The former displayed loyalty to each other, while every day the leaders of the two parties allied in the government stab each other in the back.

Feeling ostracized by his European partners, Matteo Salvini – the de facto prime minister of Italy – has turned to Washington, to seek Donald Trump’s protection (odd for a “sovereignist”), just as the ‘Brexiters’ are doing. Meanwhile the Italian soccer club met their adversaries with dignity.

Their male colleagues, the team of the “Azzurri”, are among the best paid soccer players of the world, as Italian politicians are. But both perform badly (the Italian male soccer team has not won anything in years and the most popular and long-lived post-war politician has been media magnate Silvio Berlusconi.)

The women perform for their nation for very little money (their salary does not exceed 50,000 Euros per year, every thing included). Where male-dominated soccer, politics and the economy thrive in the cult of individualism, the women work in solidarity with each other, like workers of days gone by. The women don’t usually pretend to be seriously hurt– as their male colleagues do – every time they fall. They don’t play the victims. They know what they want: to win. But not at all costs. Every time they did, until they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by the Netherlands on Saturday, they burst out in joy and hardly believed it.

This is sport as it ought to be. As it may have been before it became Big Business: human beings aware of doing something extraordinary and being proud of it. The other female national teams taking part in the Cup behave the same: with ability, technique and grace. With no hubris and blind aggression from too much money, the women’s team enchanted Italy and the world.

Maybe it won’t last: sooner or later money could also flood women’s soccer and change its philosophy and values. It would be sad. Italians would lose one of the few popular models that give them hope. But for now, in this critical period of its recent history, the women of the soccer squad are a precious asset and a model for the country.

Attilio Moro is a veteran Italian journalist who was a correspondent for the daily Il Giorno from New York and worked earlier in both radio (Italia Radio) and TV. He has travelled extensively, covering the first Iraq war, the first elections in Cambodia and South Africa, and has reported from Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan and several Latin American countries, including Cuba, Ecuador and Argentina. Presently, he is a correspondent on European affairs based in Brussels.

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10 comments for “What Italy Can Learn From its Women’s Soccer Team

  1. Proud infidel
    July 10, 2019 at 01:53

    The author seems to be saying, “individualism should be squashed in the name of collective marxusm.” No thanks.

  2. Mark Matson
    July 8, 2019 at 07:36

    Equal pay for equal play or no? Yeah, well sports are male dominant because males invented sport. Why don’t women invent their own sport, play, and generate the revenue ? By the way women received 9% of sport generated revenue (World Cup 2018) while the men received 7%. Also, there were 3.6 billion viewers for mens’ soccer generating a $6 billion profit to FIFA-womens’ soccer had 764 million viewers. Clear it up any?
    .

  3. geeyp
    July 3, 2019 at 00:33

    Just a stellar report ( that is so true ) from Attilio Moro. Thank you so much.

  4. Joe Tedesky
    July 2, 2019 at 23:29

    It’s like comparing professional baseball to watching anything but. Like why is it more exciting watching women’s softball or Little League over watching the MLB? I’m sure somewhere in there is a suitable metaphor for our world’s dilemmas… I guess. Great article though love to learn more about Italian politics as it is… so again thanks Consortium for bringing these great authors to our eyes.

  5. Tom Kath
    July 2, 2019 at 20:04

    Not sure what the point in this piece is. Women and men are different? There are certain things that women do better? Maybe that “playing” football is not about winning?

    “The female of the species is deadlier than the male”.

  6. Tennegon
    July 2, 2019 at 19:55

    For years, despite being a serious fan of the male side of the game of (true) football, I have actually enjoyed watching the women’s matches, as they tended to be far cleaner, less ‘physical’, absent the overt use of ‘simulation’ , aka diving, or outright cheating, and would agree with the author of the piece that it seemed much more oriented to the joy of the game, both from a sport standpoint, but also as a combined group effort, the essence of teamwork.

    Alas, the more I watch, especially with this year’s Women’s World Cup in France, it seems the teams are catching up with their male counterparts in all departments. Two (uncalled, uncarded) obvious dives by England’s top striker/scorer in the semi-final match with the U.S. is sufficient proof of my observation.

    It seems that only winning, no matter how the game is played, has become the standard for the women as well as the men. Is that some form of true gender parity? I think not. I find it regrettable.

    But it’s not to say all is lost, for I do still see so much more of what this article highlights with the women’s performances.

    Perhaps we could replicate the gist of this, and say the U.S.A. could learn from how their women’s national team applies themselves.

    • vinnieoh
      July 3, 2019 at 13:00

      Tennegon:

      As for what happened in yesterday’s match; I put the blame squarely on the English coach. As we say in the US – he started talking s#$t several days before the match. Almost immediately when the match began the English players started angrily arguing the calls. As a former referee I’ve been there and had that done to me. It’s a despicable, reprehensible tactic, and often instigated by the coach and infectious to the players; it is intended to intimidate the referee. Yes, White should have been carded for “simulating play.”

      As for the women being different from the men, especially in a competitive sport that is most decidedly NOT non-contact: why would or should we expect them to act or play any differently than the men? Human nature: players get frustrated, tempers flare, and intentional (and sometimes injurious) fouls ARE made. It’s as predictable as the sunrise, and as many wise and experienced senior referees instruct – blow the whistle early and often – especially when you know or suspect there’s bad blood between the teams.

      Going back to the true message of Mr. Moro’s piece; in any team sport you win or lose as a team. if there is corruption in your sport, your political institutions, or your economic structures, then self-aggrandizement, greed, and dysfunction prevails. It’s not just Italy, England, or the USA, it’s the whole damned human race.

  7. Vera Gottlieb
    July 2, 2019 at 12:26

    And not only Italy….The entire male-dominated world…

  8. rosemerry
    July 2, 2019 at 12:15

    You are probably right, though I a not a fan of football (“soccer”). The France/USA match happened to have a penalty noticed by everyone but the Ukrainian(!) referee which she ignored so that the French team did not equalise and therefore the USA won. Perhaps coincidence (and the French were not great players!)

    I have just finished reading a wonderful book by two Italians, Guido Brera and Edoardo Nesi, “Everything is broken up and dances- the crushing of the middle class” which gives a stark but humorous take on the changes in Italy and elsewhere in the last few decades, using personal experiences interspersed with history.

    • vinnieoh
      July 2, 2019 at 13:22

      Rosemerry:

      When you say that you are not a fan of soccer, does that mean you don’t like the sport or don’t know much about it? I fathered a son who turned out to be an outstanding soccer player, and because of his interest and enthusiasm became a (youth) coach, a league official (vp of operations for our local youth league) and finally a referee for more than ten years (youth, FIFA; HS; and adult amateur.)

      In short, I know something of the game. I watched the entire game and don’t recall the play on the field which you mentioned. Many times what fans perceive as a foul is not, and sometimes referees (they’re only human, don’t always see everything) sometimes get it wrong. I officiated hundreds of games and probably need only one hand to count the games that I was completely happy with my performance. That is one reason why I persisted, because it was a challenge to do it well, and it is very difficult to do well. I watch soccer matches as much to observe the refs as to watch the players.

      I have to assume you don’t really know much about the game because the French team is VERY good and have some of the top women’s players in the world on that squad. As a matter of fact the French team actually outplayed the US squad for much of the game and ended the match with 61% of total possession time. In an after-game interview Meghan Rapinoe made that very same observation and comment. However, as often happens chance and momentary lapses of defense often decide the outcome, and that was the case in that match. Rapinoe’s free kick that scored the first goal went into the back of the net untouched by any other players, a seeming impossibility given the cluster of players between her and the net. Her second goal resulted from a lapse in the French defense (which was very good throughout most of the match) as the French defense left Rapinoe completely unmarked as the US penetrated France’s penalty area on the opposite side of the field. It was an easy opportunity and goal, and Meghan seldom botches those opportunities.

      The match was won fairly, not decided by a blown call, and as a matter of fact the score should have been 3-1 as a US goal was disallowed because of an offside call that was made in error. I know what I’m talking about – I rarely got an offside call wrong.

      Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to watch any of the Italian women’s matches. Apparently they had a sort of Cinderella tournament, playing better and going deeper that most expected they would. If they gave all beleaguered Italians a reason to smile for a moment, good on ’em. Mr. Moro’s observation on the devolution of some of the men’s play is well taken. “Simulating Play,” aka taking a dive, has grown to proportions in some quarters as to put a true fan off the sport. It does seem to be especially prevalent in men’s soccer in Italy, Spain, and especially in Central and South America.

      The US-England match begins in less than two hours and I guess I’ll start tranquilizing myself. England is hungry and the US has some weaknesses in midfield that can be exploited, and it should be a very close match. I hope for what I always hope for on this kind of a stage: that the game is played well by both sides, and that the referees provide a performance equal to the magnitude of the moment. Both for their own sake, and for the sake of the game. Also – Go USWNT; Meghan Rapinoe is a joy to watch.

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