Leveling the Field

Carolina Morace is one of Italy's most skillful soccer players, with 12 league titles and more than 500 goals to her credit, writes Nick Rigillo in the August 14 Herald of Edinburgh. So why has her promotion to coach a third division team caused such a ruckus?

After retiring from the game in 1998, 35-year-old Morace co-hosted the soccer show "Gala Goal" on Italy's popular Telemontecarlo network. The role of co­host is "still considered the most obvious role for women on television," writes Rigillo. "Italian broadcasters appear to believe voluptuous bodies mean ratings. Morace, however, was not chosen for her physical beauty. She was picked for her unquestionable expertise." Morace was soon promoted to the role of "expert" on the show.

Luciano Gaucci, owner of the all-male Viterbese team, sent a shock through Italy's highly traditional soccer estab­lishment by hiring Morace as coach, writes Rigillo. For Morace, "the idea of becoming the first-ever woman to coach a professional male football team was the most natural thing in the world." After all, she had been playing soccer, or foot­ball, as it is known in Italy, since she was five years old. But Italians' reaction to her new post has been decidedly mixed, leaving her perplexed."

Over the past few days I have been treated like an exotic animal," she told Rigillo. "I have been asked all sorts of silly questions like `What will I do in the changing rooms?' or `Will I hug my play­ers after a goal?' What rubbish! Do you think Zdenck Zeman or Fabio Capello [two of the most popular soccer man­agers in Italy] go and poke their noses in the showers while their players are washing?"

While women's soccer gets short shrift in Italy, Morace may bring more atten­tion to the sport. "Her appointment proves once again that women can no longer be ignored," said Anna Finoc­chario, a former government equal op­portunity minister. "My only concern is that if she should fail, all the old cliches about women and sports will come back with a vengeance."

"Judge me as a coach, not as a woman," Morace said. "If it doesn't work out, it will be Carolina Morace who made the mistakes, not a woman. And if I don't succeed in leading Viterbese to the second division, I will simply try again, just as any male coach would."