Patrizia Panico became the first woman to take charge of an Italian men’s national team when she stood on the touchline for the U-16 side’s 4-1 defeat by Germany on 22 March and their 3-2 win against the same opposition on 24 March. With head coach Daniele Zoratto away on a training camp with the U-19s, Panico made history to pave the way for a new era.
“I hope that was only the beginning,” explained Italy’s record-breaking international, who featured for her country at the FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 1999, in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “I’d love to see many more female coaches making their mark on men’s football in the future, both at club and international level. Although it was amazing to see how huge the media interest suddenly was and still is.
“I hope it will soon be completely normal for women to coach the men’s game – not because they are better coaches or vice versa, but because it’s expertise, not gender, that matters.”
Panico in three figures
– 653 goals in 591 competitive matches
– 108 goals in 200 internationals
– 14-time top goalscorer in Serie A
These stats should leave any up-and-coming star in no doubt about the 2015 Italian Football Hall of Fame inductee’s credentials. “The lads are really only interested in your ability,” Italy’s record goalscorer explained. “They want good training sessions and to be pushed by their coaches. I’ve never felt that it makes a difference whether I’m a woman or a man.”
Panico’s three biggest strengths
“Panico the coach is very different to Panico the player,” she said. “As a coach I’ve become much more rational. I try to be proactive and always look at the bigger picture, whereas as a player you’re much more focused on yourself and somewhat more egotistical in many situations,” she added, describing her transformation from an instinctive striker to a coach with a vision. “It’s a similar story when it comes to emotions. First I had to get used to the fact that I can only talk now and not run off the tension anymore. I try to strike a good balance and act as a counterpart to my team. If I notice that they’re being too lively, I try to radiate a sense of calm, and if my team look too listless, I try to lift them from the touchline.”
Panico’s philosophy in three words
“It’s very important to me that we’re purposeful and versatile in attack,” Panico explains. “My team should be able to create or force goalscoring opportunities in every match, and I like to try and achieve that with aggressive, quick and direct attacking play. Instead of pushing the ball around from side to side unnecessarily, we want to put our opponents under constant pressure. And when we lose the ball, I want us to win it back as urgently as possible.”
Panico’s three role models
– Carlo Ancelotti
– Silvia Neid
– Diego Simeone
“I’ve learned something from each of my coaches, so this list of three names is by no means set in stone; it’s just a selection,” the Rome native explained. “Although I could have listed all sorts of other names, I’m a particularly big admirer – and fan – of the three coaches I’ve named.”
When discussing football with Panico, it quickly becomes clear that her selection makes sense and perfectly reflects the way she operates.
Like Ancelotti, she uses a sense of calm and emotional stability to try and set her players on the right path as individuals and communicates with transparency and authenticity. Panico’s ambition and competitive nature enable her to strive for wins and titles – and few coaches can boast a collection like that of the great Silvia Neid. During the second match under her direction, the former Lazio striker demonstrated exactly what she admires about Simeone’s style of play: an aggressive, compact pressing game and fast, direct play with as few touches as possible going forward.
“It would be great if plenty of other coaches followed my example and put us on the fast track to emancipation in football,” she concluded. Time will tell whether Panico remains an exception to the rule or whether this really is the dawn of a new era.
Source: FIFA (18 April 2017)