The UEFA European Women's U19 Championship provides the latest landmark for the female game in Italy and the action is not be restricted to the pitch either – far from it, in fact.
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The UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship provides the latest landmark for the burgeoning female game in Italy. Over the past decade the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has made a concerted effort to spread and improve women's football in the country, and with appreciable reward.
Since 2001/02 the number of teams in the top three women's divisions has doubled and Italy now has 24,000 registered female footballers. This represents less than 10% of the 290,000 women who actually play football in the country, and even if that is dwarfed by the number of male participants – over 4.5 million – the figure is steadily rising.
Indeed, with 6.3 million Italian women saying they have a passion for the game there is scope for further growth, something the FIGC is keen to take advantage of. The FIGC already runs several educational projects, initiatives including the Football Schools Project (Progetto Scuole Calcio), youth tournaments, the UEFA Grassroots Festival and Calcio+.
Calcio+ is a summer camp for girls and boys aged between 13 and 16 where they are taught about leading a healthy lifestyle, the rules of the game and anti-doping. Since 2009, when the FICG signed the UEFA Grassroots Charter, the federation has also hosted an annual festival at the national team training base in Coverciano, Florence. The festival features a series of tournaments with the aim of uniting girls and boys of different backgrounds and ability.
If the ongoing UEFA European Women's U19 Championship in the Rimini region has been somewhat more high-profile and elite, it too feeds into the ambition of raising the profile of women's football in Italy. Not only have the players gained from their participation in this summer's tournament; the nation's female coaches are benefiting too.
Because, through its HatTrick assistance programme, UEFA is backing the FIGC coaching initiative A Goal for Women's Football, which aims to develop training methods and management skills. Two four-day courses – advanced and youth – are taking place during the women's finals involving up to 140 coaches, selected from the women's national championship as well as school and youth teams.