Concept of a woman coaching a men’s team a bit too much for Italy U-16s to fully grasp

Patrizia Panico has made history in Italian football and her players are a little confused


When former Italian international Patrizia Panico was named coach of Italy’s male U-16 team, she made history as the first woman to coach a men’s national side. Her first two matches in charge were a pair of friendlies against Germany. Italy lost the first 4–1, but won the second 3–2.

Naturally, all of this has drawn more attention than a U-16 national team usually receives. In an interview with the BBC, Panico, who racked up over 200 caps for Italy in her playing days, revealed that her players call her “Mister.”

“The boys are used to addressing the coach in the male form, as ‘mister.’ To be honest, I don’t really mind. The important thing is that there is always respect on both sides.” she says.

Panico’s comments imply that she doesn’t interpret this as a pointed show of disrespect, but still—is it really that hard to get that right?

Titles aside, Panico’s appointment is just the latest example of increasing gender integration in football. Last month, Chan Yuen-ting of Hong Kong’s Eastern Sports Club became the first woman to lead a team in the Asian Champions League and in England, Arsenal Ladies’ U-12 and U-10 teams are participating in leagues with boys this season.

Richard Keys and Andy Gray must be rolling over in their graves.