It’s been less than a year since Fiorentina captain Alia Guagni turned down a massive offer CD Tacón (Real Madrid’s women’s side) and extended her contract with Fiorentina. We were obviously amped up, so the news that she’s now considering a move to Atletico Madrid—where she’d join Italy teammate and former Viola striker Elena Linari—is a good reason for dismay.
Nothing’s certain yet, but it seems that Guagni is rightfully upset about the FIGC’s slowness in implementing full professionalism for women’s teams, in which Italy has lagged behind the rest of Europe. After announcing in December that it had allocated €11 million to help calcio femminile make the jump from semi-professional to fully professional over the next 3 years, the government and the FIGC have agreed to delay the move—set to take effect this year—due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Let’s just step forward right now and say that this is bullshit. The women’s game should have been fully professional a long, long time ago, and the infrastructure to make that happen has been stunted by backwards attitudes about female athletes. For example, teams aren’t allowed to pay their players more than a minimal per diem, which means that the many players have to take jobs outside of soccer or rely on family to survive. Pumping the brakes on this move to professionalism when these athletes are at their most vulnerable—can you imagine a time that, say, health insurance could be more important?—is morally repugnant.
While she’s still one of the three best fullbacks in the world, Guagni is 32 now and hasn’t ever gotten paid for her talent and work, so it’s very reasonable that she’d like a paycheck at some point in her career. She’s bright and personable and likely has a future in the game after her retirement, but that’s likely not for another several years. Since Fiorentina isn’t allowed to pay her, it’s eminently reasonable that she’d go to a team that will, even though she loves Florence. Expecting people to put that much sweat equity into a life as a professional in all but name without paying them as such is just ridiculous.
Nothing is certain here. Guagni is reportedly set to meet with management in the coming weeks to discuss the matter, so she may still stay. But you have to think that her agreement to continue playing in this joke of a league was at least in part dependant on the passing of the professionalism deal which would have seen her compensated for her work. Now that it’s delayed, the entire paradigm has changed. If the captain leaves, she won’t be alone, but at the head of a queue for the exit. This is massively important and massively threatening to this team.
Guagni would doubtless slot right into the Atleti XI and excel just as Linari has. It would be another unquantifiable loss for soccer in Italy, another lesson to young players that they’ll never make a living in the sport in their own country, and another reminder of the sexism rampant throughout the highest levels of calcio’s bureaucracy. And, as usual, all the blame can be laid at the feet of the FIGC, who have resisted efforts to professionalize for as long as they’ve existed. Shame on them.