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The ex 'boyfriend of Italy' leads the way for women's football

Head coach Antonio Cabrini of Italy leads a training session during the UEFA Women's EURO 2017 at Sparta Stadion Het Kasteel on July 16, 2017 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (Photo: Getty Images)
by Antonio Lamorte, AIPS Young Reporter, Italy

UTRECHT, July 17, 2017 - Screaming and waiting, hordes of girls surrounded the bus of the Italian national team during the eighties. It was not because the elegance of Gaetano Scirea or Paolo Rossi’s goal skills. It was because of the charm of Antonio Cabrini, the Juventus player that was nicknamed ‘Fidanzato d'Italia’ – “the boyfriend of Italy” by Gianni Brera, one of Italy’s most influential sport journalists.

Cabrini has been the coach of the Italian women’s national team, which kicks off its participation at the UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 on Monday in Rotterdam against Russia.

Girls seem to accompany Cabrini throughout his career, as he made the transition from the “boyfriend of Italy” to the Italian women’s team coach.

Cabrini is the only male manager at the EURO whose cabinet includes trophies from the World Cup, Champions League, Intercontinental Cup, UEFA Cup, six Serie A titles and two Italian Cups. He won all of these titles as the left back at Juventus and the Italian National team. In the eighties, he was considered as the successor of Giacinto Facchetti, maybe the first attacking full-back in the history of football.

Cabrini developed his attacking qualities in the youth sectors of Cremonese, where he started out as a left winger. He was very young when he entered the Cremonese team. His mother did not know anything about football. For this reason, she bought her son a basketball uniform for his trial. The others youngsters made fun of him, but the coach saw something special in Cabrini.

He arrived at Juventus at the age of 19. In 1978 he took part in the World Cup in Argentina, where he was named as the best young player of the competition. Four years later, Cabrini lifted the World Cup trophy in Madrid, but only after a big scare. During the first part of the match, he missed a penalty, but it ended up being not so bad: thanks to the goals of Paolo Rossi, Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli, Italy defeated West Germany. It was the highest point of his career. After a season as captain of Juventus, he left Turin in 1989 for Bologna, where he played until his retirement in 1991.

Cabrini started his coaching career with Arezzo, a club in the Italian third division. In 2007 he became head of the Syrian national team and in 2012 signed for the Italian women’s national team.

“If you are able to motivate them, women are more concentrated then men”, said once Cabrini to Corriere della Sera. His team is called to a big feat in the Netherlands in order to pass a hard group stage that consists of the favourites Germany and Sweden, and the courageous Russia. “This is probably the toughest group in the Euro,” claimed Cabrini. “We have drawn Germany, who are the World and Olympic champions, and Sweden, who had a great Olympics. We know how difficult it will be, but we definitely shouldn’t let our spirits drop.”

In their 10 outings at the UEFA Women’s Euro finals the Azzurre always reached at least the quarter-finals. “A lot of parents consider football unsuitable for their daughter. Italy has a cultural problem with women’s football,” Cabrini had once said, highlighting his critical attitude towards the sexism surrounding women’s football in Italy.

Juve’s former left back demonstrated on numerous occasions that he is not just deft with the ball, but also with words, as his two published books testifies. Cabrini has written a manual for life and Play titled “Non aver paura di tirare un calcio di rigore” and a thriller novel titled “Ricatto Perfeto” (Perfect Extorsion). If Italy’s exploits at the UEFA Women’s Euro reach Cabrini’s own standards, he could well add another chapter to his wonderful career.

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