Labelled one of the "best players in Europe" by her coach Corrado Corradini, Sara Gama was only in Italy's 2008 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship finals squad due to a late request – it proved an inspired decision.
Gama's days in the national youth ranks seemed to have ended after the defender established herself in the Italy A team. Yet a succession of injuries led to a late plea for help from Corradini and having expected to spend the summer relaxing after passing her school exams, the 19-year-old was handed the captain's armband and presented with a new challenge. By the end of July she had even more to celebrate.
A veteran of three Women's U19 qualifying campaigns, Gama led by example at the heart of the back line, tackling hard and bringing the ball out of defence with grace and poise. Indeed, the Azzurrine No3 was statuesque throughout her side's campaign, the only player to start every match as Italy went from scraping through to the finals as best runners-up to deserving champions. Alice Parisi's second-half penalty earned victory against Norway in the Tours showpiece, but just as crucial was the contribution from Gama.
She got her reward – becoming the first Italian to lift the trophy. "I feel very happy, as does my team and I hope this success can help women's football in Italy to improve." Gama said in the aftermath of that triumph. "I'm OK now, but over the next few days I'll start to feel tired. I still have to celebrate graduating after passing my school exams and now I have two things to celebrate."
She has gone on to be a senior regular, reaching the UEFA Women's EURO 2009 quarter-finals.
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