A week after it seemed that the women’s top-flight football in Italy was given the green light to resume its final part of the season, the Italian FA decided to bring the Serie A Femminile to a premature end.
“The federal president has advised the councilors regarding the indications emerged by the clubs and soccer players on the resumption of the Serie A championship,” read a statement on the Italian FA’s website.
“The declared impossibility to resume the activity was noted, as was also emerged in the Assembly between the division’s teams, and so, the Council has decided to call off the 2019-20 season. To define the final ranking, the Division must apply the same criteria valid for men’s professional championships.”
With six league games left, Juventus were leading the Serie A on 44 points, nine points ahead of Fiorentina but the Viola had a game in hand.
Despite the comfortable lead that the Bianconere enjoyed, the Italian FA decided against assigning Juventus the Serie A title while an algorithm was needed to send a second team into the UEFA Women’s Champions League between Fiorentina and Milan after both the Viola and the Rossonere were joint-second on 35 points.
Meanwhile, Tavagnacco and Orobica Bergamo were relegated into Serie B with Napoli and San Marino awarded Serie A promotion.
This decision means that Malta internationals Emma Lipman and Shona Zammit won’t be able to complete their 2019-20 commitments in the Italian top-flight due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lipman and Zammit’s clubs, Florentia San Gimignano and Pink Bari, won’t be affected by this decision as they were neither occupying a European spot nor were in the bottom two places of the league.
“The longer it went, the more hopeful I was they could figure out a way to continue given that in other countries like Denmark and Spain they immediately decided to conclude their women’s leagues prematurely,” Lipman told the Sunday Times of Malta.
“At the same time, though, we were in a state of limbo because sometimes news reports would say that we would go on and then all of sudden everything changes.”
Zammit echoed Lipman’s thoughts as she feels that the Italian FA took long to make a decision and this had a negative effect at the end.
“I was positive that the championship could resume especially since there were medical protocols ready to be put in place,” she explained.
“At the same time, we have to respect the Italian FA because they evaluated the pros and cons of resuming the championship in the midst of a difficult health situation, with Italy being one of the hardest-hit nations by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Maybe if they could have started the discussions earlier though, the idea of a possible restart could have been more realistic.”
One of the persons who criticised this decision was Italy women’s national team coach Milena Bertolini, who accused some Italian clubs of treating women’s teams as just an image.
A year after Italy’s spectacular run in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and few months before their crucial Women’s Euro 2021 double-header against Denmark, the women’s game in the Mediterranean’s heel is still chasing government, ministers and authorities to introduce professionalism.
“Sending a strong message by resuming the league was the Italian FA’s idea but the decision-making process took so long and it came to a point where they had to get into consideration other factors… such as that teams were yet to gather and not everyone had the same infrastructure such as teams like Juventus and Milan for example,” Lipman said.
“In addition, playing in July and August is not very ideal given the high temperatures in Italy.
As per the professionalism question, the clubs may have not been united in whether they would continue the season or not, but the players were all united in sticking together and fighting for one cause – if you flip this situation around, it could actually contain a stronger message by not having resumed the championship.”
A few days before the final decision, the Italian FA had set up a fund called ‘Save Football” to rescue the whole Italian game, but only €700,000 were allocated for the women’s Serie A which was not deemed risk worthy for the 12 top-flight sides.
“Should the league have continued, it would have had a great exposure given that majority of the women’s leagues had already been stopped,” Zammit said.
“I appreciate the Italian FA’s efforts to resume the 2019-20 season, but I feel that the funds allocated for the Serie A was not enough and given the covid-19 situation, maybe it was not worth risking our health.”
While the disappointment of not having had the opportunity to complete a full season will remain vivid, the Malta international duo will be now setting their sights on what their football future holds for them.
Asked about whether she will be at Florentia next season, Lipman has yet to make a decision.
“I’ll be where I’m supposed to be, I always have that mentality to be honest,” the former Roma and Manchester City player said.
Zammit, on her side, managed to impress Pink Bari in her first season overseas as the Puglia-based club has already offered her the opportunity to remain there for another year.
“I have to evaluate the situation before deciding what to do,” she explained.
“Obviously, I am overwhelmed that Bari offered me the chance to stay for another year.
“At the same time, I am glad to have had this chance to play football overseas because it has always been my dream, and despite the unexpected situations, I am still grateful for having been given this opportunity.”
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