Welcome to Moving the Goalposts, the Guardian’s new (and free) women’s football newsletter. Here’s an extract from this week’s edition. To receive the full version once a week, just pop your email in below:
This summer has, more than ever, focused eyes on the achievements of women on the pitch. Players from around the world have dazzled fans and emphatically illustrated that this is where they belong.
Just as important, however, is the increasing visibility of women in roles off the pitch. Nowhere is this more evident than within the media. Over the past few years we have seen more and more female voices involved as journalists, on the radio and as presenters and pundits on our television screens.
Italy’s Diletta Leotta is a shining example. As a presenter for DAZN for the past four years, she is the face of the platform’s Serie A coverage and has also worked on its Women’s Champions League broadcasting. With more than a decade of experience, she has had to break through the barriers of a traditionally male business and takes immense pride in working for a team that is now 40% female.
“In 2018 I remember that I was completely alone on the field”, she tells Moving the Goalposts. “But now [there] are so many women doing this job so I’m really happy to be part of this team full of women. At the beginning it was not easy to fit in in this world dominated by men. And now, I think that we are ready to experience an inclusive show with football and women in football.”
Affable and energetic, it is clear within minutes of meeting Leotta how passionate she is about her job. “I have loved football since I was a little girl. It never stops surprising me, and it never stops being exciting,” she says. “My last match, Milan [against Internazionale] in San Siro was incredible. The atmosphere and the derby was crazy. I have to say that I’m lucky because I do what I love to do.”
Football in Italy is often said to be “like a religion”. This means there is little room for error in public-facing roles. That pressure would get to most people, but Leotta’s key piece of advice is to remain authentic. “You have to be perfect when you speak about football,” she says. “I was completely obsessed with being perfect and sometimes I lost my authenticity. But now I think that I am ready to be myself every time and show my personality. Maybe this is one of the most important things that I can do.”
Leotta has a firm eye on the progress of the women’s game in her country. She lists presenting coverage of the Women’s Champions League final in Turin in May as one of her favourite achievements. “During that match you could see these amazing football players, [who were] super professional,” she recalls. “They inspire the new generation, and you can see now it is normal to see a little girl that wants to be a football player.”
The Serie A Femminile began in Italy a fortnight ago, and Juventus and Roma will also feature in this year’s Champions League. With DAZN owning the broadcast rights to the WCL, Leotta is excited to have more chances to work within the female game: “I’m ready to restart with football and with women in football. It’s nice because in Italy, football, like I said before, is like religion, but also female football is increasing a lot. I could see this during the Champions League because so many people were there, and the atmosphere was very good.”
While domestic football may be going strong, Italy’s struggles on the international front are no secret. The men failed to qualify for this winter’s World Cup while the women failed to progress from their group at Euro 2022, despite much anticipation. “It’s not a good moment,” Leotta ruefully explains. “I remember that in 2019, Italy [women] played very well and the television and newspapers paid important attention to these football players. I prefer to remember that moment not just because I prefer to see the bright side of life, but I think that now we have to restart for the women’s national team, but also the men’s. It’s not easy to have a World Cup without Italy.”
This hope may not be too far off. Since our conversation, Italy have secured automatic qualification for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Another opportunity perhaps for the players and women working in the sport to take centre stage.
Start of WSL delayed: With the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, all football was called off by the FA as a mark of respect. On Monday, the return of matches was approved, and the season will now begin this weekend. Arsenal are kicking off proceedings against Brighton at Borehamwood on Friday evening.
Officials on strike: The start of Liga F, Spain’s new women’s professional league, was called off last weekend because of a strike by its referees. They are asking for increased pay and professional working conditions. In somewhat absurd circumstances, teams still travelled and walked out for matches despite knowing they would not play.
Road to Australia and New Zealand: Two of the home nations and Republic of Ireland have learned their playoff fate for the World Cup qualifiers. In round one Scotland will host Austria in a tricky encounter at Hampden Park. Should they win, they will then host Ireland. Wales, meanwhile, will entertain Bosnia-Herzegovina. Switzerland await the winner in round two.