|WOMEN IN SPORTS||
March 28, 2002
Female sports, so equal, so different...an Italian Olympic view
An interesting meeting on female sports took place Thursday in Rome at the National headquarters of CONI, the Italian National Olympic Committee. The meeting was organised by the National Commission for Equality and Equal Opportunity between men and women. The title was "Female Sports: So Equal, So Different."
Guest speakers included Gianni Petrucci, the president of CONI (the umbrella organisation for all of Italy's sports federation), Franco Carraro, the president of the most powerful sport federation in CONI, the Italian FA, Evelina Christillin, vice-president of the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics organizing committee and several gold medal Olympic champions. These included Josepha Idem (Kayak, Syndey 2000), Antonella Belluti (Cycling, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000) who switched over to the bob sled competition at Salt Lake City, and Monica Vaillant (world champion with the National waterpolo team as well as sports psychologist of the National women's soccer team).
Among the invited guests were head coach Carolina Morace and her national team forward Rita Guarino who scored Italy's only goal last Sunday against Spain in the China 2003 qualifier. Representatives, practically all women, from other sports such as volleyball, tennis and handball were also present.
Missing from the meeting was Natalina Ceraso Levati, the president of the Italian Female Soccer Division.
The meeting opened with a delegate reading a message from Pat Cox, the president of the European Parliament, on women and sports. "At the modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 there were no female athletes. At Atlanta 1996, the Canadian contingent had more female athletes (154) than male athletes (153) in its national team. Cox added that the road to improving these statistics has so far been slow and also uncertain. At the end of the 20th century, there have been several obstacles which have impeded full participation of women in sports on an international level.
Nevertheless, some significant events such as the successful women's soccer event at the Atlanta Games is testimony of how things are indeed changing.
Carraro began his talk by complimenting Morace on her victory which pushes Italy closer to a possible 2003 qualification. While mentioning women's soccer, he also heaped praise on USA WC99 by saying "that women's soccer reached its pinnacle in the Women's World Cup held in the U.S. in 1999." It is rumoured that Carraro is an admirer of the womens game in the U.S. and would like to possibly emulate that program. Carraros only caution was that he was not totally convinced that sports such as boxing should be for women. His reasoning was to a degree also in favour of women as he just could not see the day when men will also participate in synchronised swimming (men do ballet so why should they not also do synchronised swimming?).
The meeting included a short film footage of the national women's soccer team at the last European championship held in Germany. That event was a bit of a disaster for Italy (eliminated by France which was already eliminated from the tournament) but no doubt the footage pleased both Morace and Guarino as the game received even more exposure among the public present at the meeting (many female high school students).
A variety of topics were discussed, including the persistent lack of media coverage in women's sport, the disparity in salaries of male and female athletes (some went as far as saying that men's Olympic gold medals actually weigh MORE than those of the women!), medical and financial assistance to female athletes, the greater presence of women in sports but the absence of them in Italian politics (unlike some Scandinavian countries where the percentage of female politicians is equal) and the problem of the lack of female coaches and managers in such sports as volleyball.
Milena Bertolini, the only woman in the FA's board of directors, presented a rather dismal picture of wome''s soccer in Italy. According to FA statistics, there are only 13,000 registered players in Italy. This clashes somewhat with UEFA stats which state that Italy only has 10,000 registered players. Bertolini noted the large gap between countries such as Germany with well over 500,000 players, Denmark and even England which is now getting close to the 40,000 mark. She noted (and this is the case in many other facets of Italian society) that Italy is presently at the rear of the train. Bertolini also mentioned that the women's game in America with more than 8 million players.
Regarding women's soccer, problems such as weekly practises (very often after 8:30 at night in poor weather conditions), combining work with playing soccer, poor health care support (ambulances are not usually present at pitches like at the men's games) and registration for life were also discussed. This last point is an anomaly of Italian women's soccer. If a player signs on with a club she signs on for life. The only way to get out of the contract (n.b. women's soccer is played on an amateur basis) is to come to some sort of deal with the club president. Many girls and young
women who may want to change clubs for personal and practical reasons (such as not getting along with the coach or having a club closer to home) become disenchanted with the whole process and often abandon the game entirely because of this absurd clause which apparently dates back to 1910.
Bertolini and others involved in the game would like this ruling to change otherwise it will be difficult to attract more players to the game.
Bertolini's last talking point regarded the girls sector in women's soccer in Italy. According to her, the level presently is zero.
News of the meeting only made page 26 of the Gazzetta dello Sport sports paper. The paper has a total of 28 pages. Women and the world of Italian sports still takes a back seat to: men's soccer, basketball, volleyball, F1 racing and even....horse racing!
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