Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio

Women's National Team

Roma 08/08/2017

Bertolini: “I want my team to play an entertaining brand of football”

Bertolini: “I want my team to play an entertaining brand of football”

There is little time to relax for Milena Bertolini, as the newly-appointed coach of the Women’s National team is already hard at work in her preparations. Her first official matches in charge of the Azzurre will take place in September, with World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Romania scheduled for the 15th and 19th respectively. Her debut fixture will be held in La Spezia, with the latter being played away from home. In the meantime, Bertolini will also be focused on the Under-19 Women’s side’s ongoing participation at the European Championship in Northern Ireland: “The work of a national team coach is not just limited to their specific squad,” Bertolini insisted. “I need to have a complete vision for all the youth teams to help plan for the long term. I have come to Northern Ireland also to see some of the players who could possibly make the step up to the senior side. For someone who has been a club coach for 16 years, I am now ready to give it my all for the National team, which is certainly the crowing point of my career. However, in contrast to before, I must now do more than just focus on what is occurring on the field. There will two aspects to consider: I intend to observe all the National Women’s teams, while also building a direct and close relationship with all clubs. I will contact the club coaches, as I want to have constant and constructive communication with everyone.” 

Bertolini is already well aware of the work performed by Under-19s Women’s coach Enrico Sbardella, having previously crossed paths during their time together at Reggiana. Then working with Bruno Giordana, Sbardella was helping coach the Men’s side, during which time Bertolini was coincidentally in charge of the Women’s team. As a player, Milena began her career with this same side, helping Reggiana lift the Sudetto back in the1990-91 campaign, eventually going on to win two more league championships with Modena. As well as making four appearances for the Women’s National Team, her career was not simply limited to football, as she gained a degree in Physical Education and Sports Sciences and also entered into politics within her hometown of Correggio. In 1998 she was elected onto the Reggio local council, before then becoming an FIGC advisor back in 2000: “Let’s say that as a player I did not necessarily have great technical ability,” she continued. “And for this reason I was very reliant on character, commitment, perseverance, sacrifice and working for the team.” 

All of these playing characteristics were then successfully transferred following her arrival as a coach, during which she has since extended her impressive list of honours. Her total list of coaching triumphs include three Scudetti, three Coppa Italia trophies, four Supercoppa Italiana titles and six ‘Panchina d’Oro’ awards. The latter were awarded to her from the FIGC after being selected by her fellow coaches. During her time at Brescia, where she spent the last five seasons, they called her side the ‘Women of Miracles’. Bertolini and Carolina Morace are also currently the only women to possess certificates allowing them to coach men’s sides in Serie A.

Already racking up a pretty solid back catalogue in club football, the ambitious coach is now showing no signs of slowing down, much accustomed to aiming high: “With my work I always put in the same commitment and passion that has come to embody my career,” added Bertolini. “Whether that be as a player or a coach. We face a difficult task, that of taking Italy back to the World Cup after a 20-year absence. However, I’m sure we can win it. Our enthusiasm is key, as this is something that helps you reach the top. I will be demanding this from all of my players.” 

Well aware of the challenge that lies ahead, Milena will be taking charge of a team that recently exited the European Championship at the group stage, one which did contain eight players from Brescia: “We received some important indications from the Euros,” she admitted. “First of all, there is obviously some great talent within the team and we possess a solid structure that certainly gives us something to work with. Secondly, one must consider that there are no easy teams to face. Austria reached the semi-finals, Iceland did extremely well, while it was impossible to think that four or five years ago Portugal would’ve reached this point of the competition. We’ve also seen a lot happen during the course of the Champions League.”

Milena Bertolini’s National side will now gather on September 10th: “We have four days to prepare for two games against Moldova and Romania,” said the coach. “ “We’ll make sure that the time frame is enough for them. I want the National team to play good and exciting football, that helps bring people some to the stadiums. We are overcoming prejudices and we have a morale duty to show people that we know how to play and have fun. I like football to contain passion and courage, one where we are the protagonists while working for each other.” 

More than 30 years have passed since Milena began her career in football and a number of things have in fact changed, although still not enough. One important step is that of the obligatory introduction of women’s teams within professional clubs, while positives also include the improvement coaching staff within the Women’s National team set-up, the emergence of the Under-23s, Under-16s and the Futsal side, as well as a whole host of school activities: “It sends an important message to those children who are looking to advance their passion,” Bertolini concluded. “Especially for those who have inspirational heroes. Changes always take time, which is needed, but over the last 30 years there have been a lot. The federation is pushing forwards a fundamental project, as altering the core culture is the first step in closing the gap between ourselves and other countries. We must now be good at following through on these changes.”