‘We are really happy’: Italian female footballers get new professional status | Women’s football

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OWhen Sara Gama and her Juventus Women team-mates first played at the club’s Allianz Stadium in Turin in March 2019, she knew that moment marked a significant leap forward in the acceptance of women’s football in Italy. More than 39,000 spectators filled the stadium, which until then had only been played by men, beating the previous record of 14,000 for a women’s match in Italy. To top it off, Juventus beat Fiorentina 1-0.

“There was a lot of emotion because it was the first time we played in such a big stadium and in front of so many people,” said Gama, a famous defender who captains Juventus Women and the team. female from Italy. “We were aware that we were making history… but that was not the only important thing that had happened in women’s football.”

Juventus Women was formed two years earlier after it became mandatory for top men’s clubs to have a women’s team. Moreover, the match at the Allianz followed the national team qualifying for a place at the 2019 Women’s World Cup for the first time in two decades.

Sara Gama captains Italy in the Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifier against Switzerland. Photograph: Peter Klaunzer/EPA

Now Gama and his female Serie A colleagues are celebrating another historic change after finally being promoted to professional status by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC). The change ends years of Premier League players earning capped salaries due to recognition only as amateur athletes, and takes effect from July 1, in time for next season.

Gama, 33, was among those fighting for the upgrade, which removes a gross salary cap of €30,000 per season and gives women the right to contracts that include social security contributions such as l health insurance and pensions.

The currently agreed minimum wage for a Serie A player aged 19-23 is €20,263 per season, and €26,664 from the age of 24. However, Gama, who has become an icon of women’s football in Italy, does not expect her salary to match that of her multimillion-earning male counterparts anytime soon.

“It’s the minimum, so obviously there are players who earn more, and of course we are not on the same level as the American women’s team, which recently won an incredible battle for equal pay,” said she declared. “I’m quite pragmatic and look at my realities: the first thing I need is to have the same working conditions as men, because it’s a job that we do.

Gama, who previously played for Paris Saint-Germain, said the change would help boost the credibility of Italian women’s football abroad and make the league more attractive to foreign sponsors and talent. “We want to be better and better and that will help clubs grow, so it’s a win-win.”

Born in Trieste to an Italian mother and Congolese father, Gama had a passion for football from an early age, playing football with the boys in her neighborhood. As her talent blossomed, she joined a junior football team.

“I was the only girl on the team,” she said. “It was normal for my team-mates to see me playing the way we used to play together when we were kids, and I quickly found my place in the team and had their respect. Of course, when we was playing matches, the opponents were surprised to see a girl playing, and skeptical.

Although the Serie A women’s league has existed in one form or another since 1968, it was not until 2017 that the requirement for men’s Serie A clubs to have a women’s team was introduced. However, ACF Fiorentina were one step ahead of the game, having created a women’s team a few years earlier.

Daniela Sabatino
Daniela Sabatino, 37, remembers the days when women didn’t have physiotherapists and played on unsuitable pitches. Photography: Lisa Guglielmi/LiveMedia/REX/Shutterstock

“Fiorentina were the first company to believe in this move,” said Daniela Sabatino, Fiorentina women’s striker and member of the national football team. “And so we’re really happy to finally be seen as professionals.”

Sabatino turns 37 in June and says she will only be able to enjoy the benefits of a professional contract for a short time. Recalling a time when women had to juggle training and paid jobs, had no physiotherapists and played on unsuitable pitches, she said the change would inspire and shape future generations, while allowing women’s football to gain visibility in Italian media coverage.

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Like Gama, Sabatino, who was born in a small town in the Abruzzo region, said she has always had a passion for football. “My mum said I was born with a soccer ball,” she added. “I always played there and I dreamed of becoming a professional. Although I now hope that one day women can win as much as men.

Both women are now preparing for Italy’s participation in the women’s Euro 2022 tournament, to be held in England this summer, and for the crucial 2023 World Cup qualifiers later in the year.

“Our destiny is in our hands,” Gama said. “It’s important for Italy to stay on the big stage. We got there in 2019 for the first time in 20 years, and now it’s important to be there again.

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