The Fiorentina Women are riding high into this year following a 2018-19 season that was one for the record books, one Viola fans will remember fondly for a long time. The team was led Fiorentina Coach Antonio Cincotta and a triumvirate not seen since the days of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus in Alia Guagni, Ilaria Mauro and Alice Parisi. The Fiorentina Women brought home to Florence the Supercoppa trophy in superb fashion by beating Juventus in a game that saw the only goal scored by Fiorentina super-forward Ilaria Mauro. They had a great run in the Champions League, finished second in the Serie A table, just one point below Juventus, and set attendance records when they played in front of 39,000 plus fans.
Fiorentina Women’s manager Antonio Cincotta tells us, “About last year, we are happy because we won the Supercoppa against Juventus. We took a very important trophy back to Florence in October. We showed it was possible for us to win in Italy.” The confidence Cincotta and his players gains is important for the club and its fanbase, but it didn’t come without its disappointments. Cincotta continued, “We were sad though because we finished second by only one point. We lost the final against Juventus in Parma, a very tough game 2 to 1. It was a very good season though because we achieved gold and silver medals. We were proud to give something special back to our great fans and to the most beautiful city in the world.”
As we all know, sport can be a fickle, unrelenting beast. Success is often measured by the performance of your next game, which is quickly approaching. To improve on last year, Cincotta and his staff started their preparation for the upcoming season right after the 2018-19 season ended with a maniacal focus on the details. “When you finish second by only one point, you ask yourself where is that point. Is it in one counter attack? Is it in one set piece? One injury? One substitute? Where do we find it? You can find a point everywhere around you. This one point is very important for us, for me and our mentality in approaching this season. To get change we wanted to bring in players with an international mindset. To accomplish this, we worked with Vincenzo Vergine [Director of Fiorentina Youth and Fiorentina Women’s], Joe Barone and Rocco Commisso, and we signed 6 new players with international experience. We are very proud to now have Janelle Cordia, Lisa De Vanna, Frederikke Thøgersen, Paloma Lazaro, Marta Mascarello and Janni Arnth.”
Lisa De Vanna is a signing comparable on a skill level to that of recent men’s signing Franck Ribery. She is often considered among the greatest female players of today having been named to the FIFA Women’s World Cup All-Star Team twice and a nominee for FIFA Puskas Award in 2013 for this Ibrahimovic-esque bicycle kick goal.
Antonio went into a little more depth on what the signings of Janelle and Lisa mean to his team. “It is important for us to have Janelle on the team. She brings to us a lot of experience and the fight that American women are known for. Lisa also has a lot of experience that she has already shared with her new teammates. She has brought with her a new way to think about fight in soccer. She is very positive. She is never cocky, never shows off and is always humble. It is very good for us to have this type of personality on the team so we can continue to grow with her.”
The transfer window has been a very active and successful one for Cincotta and the women’s team, but the excitement for this upcoming season would not be possible without the significance placed on the women’s club by Rocco Commisso. In interviews, Rocco has many times said that the success of the women’s team is a top priority for him. He plans to invest in them as he has been with the men’s team and hopes they are able to win many trophies. Rocco has already seen what he needs to from Antonio Cincotta Rocco, a visionary worthy of leading the squad for many years to come.
In August, Rocco and Fiorentina announced that they had extended their contract with Cincotta for an additional two years, a decision for which Antonio is greatly appreciative. “In life you have to deserve this type of confidence. I am extremely grateful to Rocco Commisso and Joe Barone for the opportunity to continue to work in Florence, for these fans and our women. I will continue to work 24 x 7 on this team, every second of my day.”
One thing I learned from a brief 30-minute conversation with Antonio is that he is very passionate in his commitment to Fiorentina and Florence, passionate about his players, his fans and his patrons. Antonio continued, “We will never give up with the difficulty of the game. My dream is to give Rocco and Joe a very strong Fiorentina Women’s team that they can be proud of, reflective of the commitment that they are giving to us. We want to return to them many victories or at the least, give them the best of the best of my effort, my sweat and my soul.”
Continuing with the trend of significant Fiorentina renewals, Alia Guagni made headlines when she spurned the interest of a Real Madrid and resigned with Fiorentina, embracing the fans as they have embraced her these past few years. Since seeing this display of commitment to the city of Florence, many Fiorentina fans have actually looked to Alia with the same hope and excitement that was once reserved for Federico Chiesa. There is great hope that Alia’s loyalty to the team and city is something Federico will soon emulate, though each situation is always unique for both means and end.
While Alia’s renewal may have been the most highly publicized, it was not the only one. Antonio tells us, “Like Alia, Ilaria Mauro, our top forward known all over the world and Alice Parisi, our top handling midfielder also renounced other team offers in order to stay in Florence and play with Fiorentina. This means a lot for us because with Alia, Ilaria and Alice we were able to keep our three top players.”
This news of the renewals was met with surprise across Italy and Europe. It showed the camaraderie that this group of women have achieved together and the belief they have in both Cincotta and Rocco. Cincotta continued, “When players like this decide to stay at Fiorentina, it means we work together in a good way, the environment is positive, the relationships are strong, and the locker room is full of positive teammates. They don’t stay for one reason, but many.”
Excitement for the Commisso era
What Fiorentina fan isn’t excited at this point with what has transpired since Rocco Commisso triumphantly took over? Who hasn’t fallen for the charismatic and ever-present Joe Barone? The passion both men share for their club is contagious. That passion was on full display recently when both Rocco and Joe were scheduled to meet the women’s team for the first time and talk with them over lunch.
Antonio tells us the story, “It was a very positive and overwhelming experience. They surprised us and came in during breakfast. They were only supposed to come in for lunch but they came in early, stayed to watch the practice, and took the time to speak with and listen to all of the players. They were very positive when speaking to us and were very loud and clear about how they are going to go to work for us. They sent us a message to never give up, to keep working because we are with you. We felt the closeness they have with us. We then went right to work as hard as we could, to get as strong as we could and show them how proud we are to be Viola.”
Previewing the season
Obviously, there is a lot of excitement coming into the 2019-20 Women’s Serie A season. This team has both star power and balance across the board. There is a wonderful mix of experienced greatness to win today, and youthful talent to develop for tomorrow. The number of international players continues to increase. The buzz created by Italy’s run in the World Cup continues in Florence, even if the Macarena is no longer danced post game. Fiorentina carries a lot of pride in the success that team had. Cincotta boasts, “We had four players on Italy Women’s team: goalkeeper Francesca Durante, Alia Guagni, Ilaria Mauro and Alice Parisi. Adding to that we have three very young Italians who I think have the potential to reach the national team in the next couple of months. Alice Tortelli who is a central defender, Valery Vigilucci, in Spain they call this player Total Campista as she can play everywhere on the field, and Tatiana Bonetti, our number 10. She is very famous despite missing the World Cup, which was a technical decision made by the National staff. She is a potential phenomenon and could be like Roberto Baggio in this community. We are very proud of all these internationals.”
A preview wouldn’t be complete without a focus on our Captain and emotional leader, Alia Guagni. Antonio tells us that this year will require a different focus from her as she will be Antonio’s eyes and ears on the field. “She is the captain of the team so for me she has to think first about her teammates, second about the club, and third about herself. For me she must do this. She needs to put her teammates first and be an example of success for them all to see.”
There is no doubt that despite a second-place finish last year there is still a hierarchy in Serie A. Juventus is still Juventus while AS Roma has invested heavily to rebuild their squad. The upcoming Serie A season will not be easy, but it is one the team is ready for.
On the upcoming season, Cincotta said, “We know Juventus and Roma have built two dream teams in Serie A. Our goal is to do our best and try to dream to be close to Roma and Juventus in the league. We want to disrupt the leadership they have in our league. They have built dream teams, but we are a team able to dream the same.”
I’ve watched enough movies to know that passion and fight can carry you far in sports. This team has both in bulk, but they also share such a tight bond with each other that seemingly carries them through the toughest of times. Where it comes from is hard to pinpoint. Antonio is able to tell us of one area that has tied EVERYONE in this group together, language.
The official language in the Fiorentina Women’s locker room is English. Antonio explains this unique decision. “We have 12 foreign players now. To respect everybody and destroy the barriers to integration, we all speak in English. It is the first time in the history of Italian soccer that a team has decided to come together around the English language in the locker room. We start this on the first day, and we will stop only when all players speak Italian. If that doesn’t happen, we will continue to speak in English to respect our players, our staff, and to make the lives of our foreign players more comfortable. The most important thing to remember is that here in my locker room, no one is foreign. We are all Viola! “
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