It’s a fixture with a rather short history, in a period where so much has changed on the landscape of Italian women’s football. The first meeting between the two clubs came just over four years ago, when AS Roma became the latest Serie A club to take over an existing women’s club.
Fiorentina had been the first to do so back in 2015, taking the place of Firenze in a Serie A which included the likes of Tavagnacco, Pink Sport Time from Bari, Vittorio Veneto, Mozzanica, Brescia who would go on to win the title, and AGSM Verona, the defending champions. Res Roma were also involved, the club which would later make way for AS Roma.
When Fiorentina made their announcement to the press, alongside Sandro Mencucci the president of the women’s side of the club, sat Sauro Fattori, Alia Guagni, Giulia Orlandi, and Patrizia Panico. Fattori had been manager with Firenze, and like many of the squad (including Guagni and Orlandi) was kept on when Fiorentina took over. Sauro was a Florentine, born and raised in the city, and had come up through the youth ranks at Fiorentina to make it to the senior side.
The two local girls, Guagni and Orlandi, were more than happy to remain in Florence when Fiorentina took Firenze’s place, with Orlandi captaining the new team. There were plenty of other players who did likewise, such as young goalkeeper Francesca Durante who ended up playing more games than the new signing, Swiss keeper Gaëlle Thalmann. Another international goalkeeper who arrived was Réka Szőcs of Hungary, but she failed to make a single appearance for the club and was gone by January.
Other players who stayed on from the old Firenze club included Greta Adami, Valery Vigilucci, Isotta Nocchi, Alice Toretelli, and Deborah Salvatori Rinaldi. Patrizia Panico, now the Fiorentina manager, was a major new signing, arriving at the club for her final season as a player.
Panico would add experience and goals to the new squad, having won ten league titles and finishing as the league’s top goal scorer on 14 occasions. Having made her debut for the Italian national team back in 1996, the striker had made over 200 international appearances and scored over 100 goals.
On her arrival, Panico was immediately impressed by the club’s attitude, “I was struck by the objectives that ACF Fiorentina set for itself, which go beyond victory on the pitch, but are above all those of breaking down all the prejudices that still exist today regarding women’s football”.
That first season saw Fiorentina finish in third place, and the following campaign brought that historic first women’s Scudetto to Florence.
The club also won the Coppa Italia, beating Brescia in the final to claim the double. On their way to the league title Fiorentina hosted Res Roma in January 2017 where Tatiana Bonetti, Elena Linari and Greta Adami were the scorers in a 3-0 win.
Linari now plays with Roma, and the tough defender will once again come face to face with not just her former club, but her hometown and her past. Born in Fiesole, Elena began her career with Firenze, spending five seasons at the club. She helped them win promotion to Serie A, where she then made her debut in the top flight at the age of sixteen. By the time Fiorentina took Firenze’s place, Linari had already moved on to Brescia.
When Fiorentina took part in Serie A for their first season, Linari was winning the double with Brescia, which she would then repeat in her first season back in Florence. In the Res Roma side, which lost in Florence in 2017 were the likes of Melania Martinovic who went on to play for Fiorentina, Arianna Caruso now at Juventus, and Giada Greggi who is now with Roma, as is Claudia Ciccotti who was on the bench that day. Fiorentina also beat Res Roma on the final day of that season, with the Scudetto already won, with Bonetti’s injury time winner the only goal of the game.
The 2017/18 season saw the arrival of Juventus in Serie A, who would go on to dominate the league. Fiorentina did retain their Coppa Italia, defeating Brescia in the final, but finished in third place behind title winners Juventus and Brescia. With Milan then taking over Brescia’s place in Serie A, this allowed Fiorentina to take their Champions League place. They first had to overcome Tavagnacco in a play-off, as both sides had finished the season level on points, and Linari scored twice in a 3-0 win.
This would be the last appearance of Res Roma in Serie A, and Fiorentina recorded two easy wins, 4-0 in the capital and a 5-0 win in Florence on the penultimate day of the season. AS Roma would make their debut in the 2018/19 season, with Betty Bavagnoli coming in as manager. Some of the players who remained from Res Roma included Ciccotti and Greggi, still at the club now, along with Manuela Coluccini, Camilla Labate, Flaminia Simonetti, and keeper Rosalia Pipitone.
Among the new arrivals were English born Emma Lipman signing from Verona, Martina Piemonte from Sevilla, Agnese Bonfantini from Inter Milano, and Annamaria Serturini from Pink Bari. Their captain would be another new signing, but a player making a return to her home city, Elisa Bartoli.
Bartoli arrived from Fiorentina, where the defender had been a part of the double winning squad, having previously won a Scudetto with Torres. Elisa had begun her career in the capital, not with Res Roma but with Roma CF. While Res had been formed in 2003, only arriving in Serie A in 2013, Roma CF have been around in one form or another since 1965 (before Serie A arrived) and are still going to this day.
The history of Roma CF is in many ways tightly linked to the history of women’s football in Italy and Serie A. It may even be possible to connect a major piece of Fiorentina history with the founding of the club. Its initial name was ACF Roma Lido, based in the Lido di Ostia area of the city.
The woman responsible for creating the club was Mira Rosi Bellei, a physical education teacher. Her interest in football came after attending lessons at Bologna University from none other than Fulvio Bernardini. Bernardini, a former Roma player and manager, was of course the man who led Fiorentina to our first ever Scudetto win in 1956.
It was no easy feat setting up a women’s team in those days, with no league to compete in, and the squad trained at 5am to avoid the derision of the many who saw it as a joke. Opponents were hard to find for the friendly matches they played, the first one coming against a team from Napoli, and this was the main reason as to why Mira’s husband Franco Bellei started up another club, Lazio 2000.
By 1968, the first Serie A championship for women would take place. Before all that, an Italy women’s team would play their first ever international game. That came in February, when they took on and defeated Czechoslovakia in Viareggio.
Now the stage was set for a league title to finally be fought for, but in those early heady days, things were never going to be that simple. In the end two different organisations would run a championship. The FICF (Federazione Italiana Calcio Femminile) had just been founded in 1968, and they attracted the largest number of clubs. Although some later pulled out, they were still able to run two groups of five clubs, while the UISP had just five teams.
Bologna won the UISP league, claiming victory in all eight games to finish four points ahead of Abano Milano. The FICF league was a larger affair, and all of the players who appeared in that first ever Italy international game were members of the clubs taking part. These included ACF Roma and Giovani Viola, who competed against each other in Group B. Roma topped the group winning all their matches, defeating Giovani Viola 6-3 and 3-0 along the way.
Those were the only defeats the Viola team suffered, but they ended up in third place missing out on a spot in the final group. That went instead to Cagliari who finished a point ahead of the Viola, with the sides ending level in both their meetings. Lazio ended up bottom of the group as they failed to win a single game. Their single point came in a draw with Napoli, while they suffered heavy defeats at the hands of their sister club, Roma running out 9-0 and 5-1 winners when the two met.
The other group saw Real Torino come out on top, four points ahead of both Genova and Ambrosiana. These two teams then met in a play-off in Turin to decide who would make it to the final stage, with Genova coming out on top as 3-1 winners. The top four teams now played the semi-final stage over two legs, with Roma getting the better of Real Torino, while Genova defeated Cagliari.
After Roma’s win over Torino, they would have been expected to have enough to overcome Genova in the final. However, when the two met in Pisa for the final, Albertina Rosasco’s goal was enough to give Genova the victory. Just like in the men’s game, they would go down in history as the first ever league winners in Italy.
Roma would have their revenge the following season, with all ten teams competing in one single division for the FICF title. Giovani Viola had become Fiorentina Elettroplaid, Abano Milano came over from UISP and were now known as Sanyo Milano, an early sign of things to come as many clubs would take on the name of their main sponsors and owners.
Fiorentina were unable to compete with the likes of Roma, losing 5-1 at home and 6-1 away, while also suffering a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Genova. Fiorentina finished in seventh place, 15 points behind both Roma and Genova. Roma went unbeaten throughout the championship and defeated Genova when the sides met in the capital, but as they finished level on points a play-off was required to decide the title winners. The initial game finished scoreless in Livorno in December, so they were forced into a replay. This was held in Grossetto where Roma finally overcame their rivals.
A sixteen-year-old student, Barbara Ostili was in the side to replace the league’s top scorer Stefania Medri, and it was her goal midway through the second half which decided the tie. Moments earlier Maria Grazia Gerwien had an effort hit the crossbar, and Genova were forced to surrender their title to ACF Roma.
Roma almost lost this first title, as women’s football was again in turmoil. The FICF lost most of their clubs, as a mutiny led by Gommagomma Meda (Milan) saw yet another federation formed, the FFIGC. The FICF’s reaction was to assign the previous season’s title to Genova as a punishment for Roma’s deflection. Genova refused to accept the decision, and it wasn’t until three years later when the federations unified that Roma’s title was officially reinstated.
The new league organised by the FFIGC had now expanded to 14 teams, and it was Gommagomma who came out on top. The winning side, which included two Swiss players Madeleine Boll and Kathrin Moser along with a young Betty Vignotto, did lose an early season game at home to Roma, but with just two defeats in their 26 games they had a five point winning margin over Brevetti Gabbiani Piacenza.
Fiorentina Elettroplaid did manage to defeat Roma 1-0 at home, while they lost the away fixture by the same score line. Roma ended the season in fourth place with Fiorentina in seventh. The following season, 1971, Fiorentina lost both their meetings with Roma, as the team from the capital ended the campaign as runners-up to Piacenza with Fiorentina in eight place.
1971 also saw the first running of the Coppa Italia, and Fiorentina and Roma would meet in the final. Fiorentina defeated Autoroma Bergamo and Reggina to reach the decider while Roma overcame Napoli, Cebora Bologna, and Lazio Lubiam. This was not the same Lazio that Mira Rosi Bellei’s husband had set up.
Unhappy with how the club was run, some of the players and the manager left to form another club, Zucchet Lazio which then became Lazio Lubiam. Lazio 2000 were at this stage known as ACF Lazio but were also competing in the Serie B regional league. They would make just one return to Serie A in 1985, for one season, before the club disappeared.
The newer Lazio, meanwhile, would go on to win five league titles and four Coppa Italia. It was this Lazio which would concede their sporting title to the main Lazio club in 2015 while in Serie B.
Back to the Coppa Italia Final of 1971, which was played in Rome. Fiorentina’s side included two Danish internationals, Hansen and Maria Ševčíková (originally from Czechoslovakia) while Roma had the English player Sue Lopez and the Austrian Monika Karner. It was Karner who scored the only goal of the game as Roma lifted the first ever Coppa Italia.
By 1972, finally there was agreement between the different federations. The FFIGC and the FICF, along with the Sicilian Federation, came together and formed the FFIUAGC. For Mira Bellei, however, her love affair with football was coming to an end. When players from her team were tempted away by other clubs, and receiving no support from the federation, she withdrew her side from the 1974 campaign. Bellei should always be remembered as one of the main players in bringing women’s football to the capital.
The club would continue on and return to Serie A in 1976. They have played under several different names, ACF Roma Italparati, Giolli Gelati Roma, AS Fiamma Roma, but they would never again repeat the early successes of Bellei’s club. Their last appearance in Serie A came in the 2011/12 season, where they ended up bottom of the table without a single win.
Firenze beat them 5-0 in Florence, and then 2-0 in Rome, with Alia Guagni scoring both goals. While CF Roma never recovered and now compete in Serie C, two seasons later Res Roma made their debut in the top tier.
The 2012/13 season was, however, the first time that Firenze came face to face with Res Roma. While Res were in the process of winning promotion from Serie B, they also took part in the Coppa Italia, and were drawn to face Firenze in the last sixteen. This game then, could really be seen as the first meeting of the clubs which would go on to become the Fiorentina and Roma that we now see in Serie A, and it was Roma who drew first blood. On December 12th, 2012, Res Roma knocked Firenze out of the Coppa Italia, winning the tie played at home 2-0.
The Res Roma goals were scored by Francesca Pittaccio, who later moved to CF Roma and now plays with Lazio, and Vanessa Nagni. Nagni, who will be 40 years old in March, is still playing with the club which continued on after ceding their place to AS Roma. They compete in Serie C, in the same group as CF Roma, and Nagni still knows how to find the net, with 12 goals so far this season.
In their first season in Serie A, 2013/14, Res Roma finished in ninth place out of 16 teams, just one point behind Firenze. When the sides met in Rome early in the season, Firenze’s poor start continued. Having already lost their opening three games, they fell 1-0 to Res. In what was a poor season for Firenze, suffering 15 defeats, they did get their revenge when Res Roma came to Florence in February. With just 8 minutes gone, Firenze were already 3-0 up, and the game ended 4-0.
The 2014/15 season would be the final campaign for Firenze, before Fiorentina took over. They fared better this time around, finishing in fourth place, though a long way behind the winners AGSM Verona, who had Patrizia Panico in their side. Panico ended the season as top scorer yet again, with 34 goals.
Firenze and Res Roma met in Florence in December, and a late goal from Giulia Orlandi was enough to give the home side victory. When they met again in Rome, the last meeting of the sides, the home side took a 2-0 lead into the break. Firenze came back in the second half and the game ended 2-2.
Fiorentina’s first season in Serie A gave them two wins over Res Roma. In a 4-0 away win Panico scored twice, and they also won 2-1 at home. With Roma’s takeover of Res, they arrived in Serie A for the 2018/19 season. The game in Rome ended scoreless and when the sides met again in Florence it was on the final day of the season. Roma were already guaranteed to finish fourth, but Fiorentina still had a chance to win the Scudetto.
Fiorentina were one point behind Juventus, who were away to Verona on the same day. Fiorentina did their part, although it took a late penalty from Valery Vigilucci to claim a 2-1 win. By that time, however, Juventus were already strolling to a 3-0 win, as they retained their league title. Just three days before that last day meeting, Fiorentina had also hosted Roma.
This was at the semi-final stage of the Coppa Italia, with the sides level 1-1 from the first leg. Tatiana Bonetti had given Fiorentina the lead away from home, but Annamaria Serturini’s penalty meant it was all to play for in Florence. This time Bonetti and Alice Parisi scored in a 2-0 win which took Fiorentina to the final, but they again lost out to Juventus.
In the previous round, AS Roma had been drawn to play CF Roma. It pitted a major piece of women’s football history, not just in Rome but in Italy, against not just the present, but what will be the future. The Serie A side made light work of the tie, running out 9-4 winners over the two legs.
The 2019/20 season would be cut short due to the Covid pandemic, but Fiorentina and Roma did manage to meet twice. It also gave Roma their first victory over Fiorentina, as they announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with.
The sides met in Florence on the second day of the season, with Roma having suffered a 3-0 defeat at home to Milan on the opening day while Fiorentina had won 4-2 away in the Tuscan derby with Florentia San Gimignano.
It was Roma, however, who claimed all three points. Serturini opened the scoring just before the break, a player who enjoys scoring against Fiorentina, and Norway’s Andrine Hegerberg sealed the win later on. When the season was suspended, Roma were in fourth place just one point behind both Fiorentina and Milan, with those two teams having played a game less.
The season never continued, unlike the men’s league, and the Scudetto was awarded to Juventus, nine points ahead at that stage, with Fiorentina taking the Champions League spot thanks to their better goal difference.
2020/21 saw Roma fail to improve in the table, but Fiorentina had started to slip away from the top. The Viola did manage to finish ahead of Roma, by just a point, but they were 12 points off Sassuolo in third, and Champions League football was no more. Roma did get the better on the pitch. Fiorentina did manage a draw away from home, Daniela Sabatino giving us an early lead before Paloma Lázaro levelled the tie. Lázaro had just joined Roma from Fiorentina that summer. After the break, Serturini, yet again, put Roma in front but Bonetti made it 2-2 ten minutes from time.
When Roma came to Florence in April, Sara Baldi gave Fiorentina a first-half lead. After the break a Manuela Giugliano penalty made it 1-1, and just three minutes later Roma found the winner, no prizes for guessing the scorer, Annamaria Serturini. That win put Roma eight points clear of Fiorentina with just four games to play. Incredibly, Roma managed just three points from their remaining matches while Fiorentina claimed maximum points to pip them to fourth spot.
Roma did win the Coppa Italia that season, defeating Milan on penalties in the final. This was the new club’s first trophy, and a just reward for how much the club had invested in the women’s side of the game. It was also more than just a sign that Roma could become one of the clubs to challenge Juventus at the top, this was Roma laying down a marker.
They had fired a warning at Milan, that their Champions League place would soon be at risk. They had beaten Juventus over two legs in the semi-final, showing that they were well able to mix it with the best. Fiorentina now knew that they had yet another rival to compete with if they were to remain among the top Serie A clubs.
One of Roma’s early games on their way to winning that Coppa Italia saw them face CF Roma again. CF Roma were competing in Serie B at the time, and after an hour of play found themselves 3-0 down thanks to an Andressa hat-trick.
This allowed Roma to make some changes and bring on some younger players, among those were Alessandra Massa who had signed from Genoa. Massa made it 4-0, while Serena Landa added a fifth, Landa is a former CF Roma player. Alice Corelli, now with Pomigliano, scored two late goals to round off a 7-0 win.
If the 2020/21 season had been about Roma breathing down Fiorentina’s neck, last season saw them leave the Viola far behind. In what could be seen as a season of transition for Fiorentina, Patrizia Panico replacing Antonio Cincotta as manager, and a lot of changes in playing personnel, the club was forced to worry more about avoiding a relegation battle than fighting for a Champions League place.
Roma had also seen a change on the bench, with Alessandro Spugna taking over from Bavagnoli who moved upstairs. Their squad, however, was strengthened gradually more than going through a complete overhaul. They brought in the likes of Lucia Di Guglielmo, who had already played under Spugna at Empoli, Valeria Pirone came in from Sassuolo, and they also bagged themselves one of Italy’s brightest young talents Benedetta Glionna, a player with a wealth of experience for her young age.
When Fiorentina travelled to face Roma in November on day nine, the Viola had won three out of eight and suffered five defeats. Roma were already seven points ahead, but they were still trailing Juventus, Sassuolo, and Milan at the top. There was just one goal scored in the meeting between the two, and yes, it was Serturini who again made Fiorentina suffer. Roma’s gap over Fiorentina was now 10 points, and when the sides would meet again in April, they had increased it to a massive 27 points.
More importantly for Roma, they had taken control of second place. Sitting five points behind Juventus with three games left to play, the Scudetto was probably out of reach at this stage, but they also held a five point lead over Milan, which meant that Champions League football was within their grasp for the very first time.
Fiorentina, meanwhile, were fourth from bottom, just three points above Napoli in the relegation zone. Roma came into the game on the back of a 7-1 hammering of Verona where Milica Mijatović scored twice, along with qualifying for another Coppa Italia final defeating Empoli.
The visitors opened the scoring in Florence through Di Guglielmo before a Sabatino penalty saw the sides go in level at the break. Lázaro put Roma back in front before Vigilucci drew the Viola level once more. There was heartbreak for Fiorentina as Sophie Haug scored an 89th minute winner, the Norwegian had joined Roma during the winter transfer window.
Roma now had one foot in the Champions League while Napoli’s draw with Sassuolo left Fiorentina sweating on their survival. The penultimate day of the season saw Juventus confirm their fifth consecutive league title while Roma sealed their Champions League qualification in style with an 8-0 win over Sampdoria.
Fiorentina were guaranteed their place in this season’s Serie A thanks to a narrow win at Pomigliano, and although they finished the season with a 6-0 win over Empoli which moved them up to seventh place, that 30 point gap to Roma showed just how much they had fallen off the pace.
Roma were unable to retain their Coppa Italia title, despite taking the lead against Juventus. Two goals in the last ten minutes meant Juventus had done the double. Roma did get some revenge earlier this season, when they won the Supercoppa for the first time. They defeated Juventus on penalties, the first time since 2018, when Fiorentina won the trophy, that Juventus had failed to claim that title too.
While Roma had clearly become one of the top clubs in Italy, and a clear rival for Juventus, there may have been some doubts this season as to whether they could cope with Champions League football for the first time along with the domestic challenges. Manager Spugna now had a successful first season under his belt at the club.
They brought in players such as Norma Cinotti of Empoli (another player who Spugna knows well, after Empoli ceded their place in Serie A to Parma), and Valentina Giacinti, one of Serie A’s most consistent scorers, arrived from Milan. Giacinti had spent the second half of last season with Fiorentina, and Roma were only too happy to snap the striker up after her fallout with Milan.
They also brought in Japanese defender Moeka Minami, who has settled in quickly and become an ever-present in the team. The two Norwegian players who arrived halfway through last season, Sophie Haug and Emilie Haavi, have had the whole pre-season with the squad, and Haavi, in my opinion, has been one of the most impressive players in Serie A this season.
As for Fiorentina, Panico too has her first season out of the way, and the squad has been strengthened. Alice Parisi and Laura Agard have returned to the club, Miriam Longo arrived on loan from Milan, and several new foreign players have already impressed.
Kaja Eržen is no stranger to the Italian league. The Slovenian international spent last season at Napoli, and before that she had two seasons with Roma after signing from Tavagnacco.
Jazmin Nichole Jackmon is an American defender, but she already has Champions League experience having played with Serbian club Spartak Subotica last season.
Alexandra Jóhannsdóttir is an Icelandic international who has played with Eintracht Frankfurt, and the midfielder made her senior debut with her first club Haukar at the age of fifteen. Zsanett Kaján is a Hungarian international, who studied and played in the US.
After failing to make the starting line-up when she joined OL Reign, Zsanett made the decision to return to Europe. She certainly made a quick impact at Fiorentina scoring twice on the opening day of this season to give Fiorentina a 3-1 victory away to Milan.
Another new arrival who scored on the opening day was Milica Mijatović. The Serbian international will be coming up against her former club when we take on Roma this weekend, having spent the second half of last season there. Milica played seven Serie A games with Roma, scoring three goals, after arriving from Swedish club Häcken, and the forward is a much-travelled player.
Apart from her native Serbia, along with a couple of experiences in Sweden, Milica has played in Bosnia, Kazakhstan, France, Norway, Cyprus, and even as far away as Melbourne, Australia.
Milica has played in all 12 league games so far this season, scoring three goals, and also found the net in our most recent Coppa Italia win over Verona.
In a pre-season friendly in August, Fiorentina went to the capital to take on Roma. The Viola came away with an impressive 3-0 win thanks to goals from Kaján, Verónica Boquete, and another new signing, the American Jenna Menta.
When Fiorentina travelled to face Roma earlier this season, we went there with maximum points from their opening three games. This saw us as early leaders alongside Sampdoria, while Roma were three points behind having lost their most recent game to Juventus. Fiorentina went in ahead at the break in Rome, but two second half goals from Haug and Giacinti gave the home side the win.
Since that victory, Roma won their next seven games which saw them take the lead in the table. Their last league game brought them face to face with Juventus, and they went into the game with a six point lead over their rivals.
Roma took an early lead through Serturini but ended up losing 4-2. This means that Juventus are now just three points behind in second place, and Roma cannot afford to slip up. Fiorentina are not out of the race either, and a win on Saturday would take them to within two points of Roma.
While Juventus are already out of Europe, Roma have made a big impression in the competition. They came through the early qualifiers, defeating Glasgow City and then Paris FC on penalties. To reach the group stage they needed to overcome Sparta Prague, and they won both legs on a 6-2 aggregate score line.
This put them in a group with Wolfsburg, Slavia Prague, and St Polten. Here they lost just one game, away to Wolfsburg, and finished a point behind the German giants. Qualification for the last eight in Europe is a massive achievement in their first season in the competition and they now await the draw on January 20th to see who they will face at the quarter-final stage.
Fiorentina have already been active in the January market. The first arrival was Pauline Hammarlund, with the Swedish striker signed from Häcken.
The latest arrival is Linda Tucceri Cimini, who will bring plenty of experience to the defense.
A lot has changed in women’s football, both globally and in Italy. It’s been a long, hard, and slow journey, with battles fought every step of the way. It’s extraordinary to think that this is the first season of professionalism in the Italian women’s league.
This was something which decades ago seemed just around the corner, when players from all over Europe wanted to come and play here, when clubs and their sponsors were able to attract the top players. Italy was at the forefront of organising international tournaments, but along the way, the proper investment and improvements never happened.
This left Italy lagging behind other countries, and left women’s football here struggling for survival. The men’s league suffered too and lost its place as the league where every player wanted to be. Women’s football, however, was already starting with a handicap, and it has taken a long time to recover, but at long last progress is being made.
With the top Serie A clubs now involved, and with the arrival of professionalism, it should now become easier to attract big names to Italy, and to keep the players we already have.
So much has changed, but, looking back at those early days and the very first season of Serie A in 1968, a team from Florence would take on a team from Rome. The same thing will happen this weekend, and it’s good to know that not only were Florence and Rome a part of women’s football history, but they are also very much a part of both its present and its future.