Iconic Azzurre captain Sara Gama bows out on 140 appearances as Italy held to Ireland stalemate

Sara Gama bowed out of international football with her 140th Italy appearance in a game of few clear chances against Ireland, and the Azzurre captain was given a fitting send off in the first-ever international game at Viola Park.


VIOLA PARK (Florence): Far from being a thrilling mid-season international friendly, the Italy Women’s National Team being held to a goalless stalemate by a tricky Ireland side will be remembered as notes in history as opposed to reasons of footballing spectacle, with long-term Azzurre captain Sara Gama making her final appearance for her country. With Gama‘s tally of international caps now locked at 140 and with a near-18-year international career behind her, the Juventus skipper was given a fitting send-off at Viola Park, and will no doubt take some satisfaction from ending the night with at least a clean sheet.

Gama announced at the beginning of this February international window that Friday’s game against Ireland would be her last with the Azzurre. From that moment on there was little doubt that she would start and lead her country out one last time, and for the first-ever international fixture at the newly-opened and spectacularly impressive Viola Park in Florence. 

Italy Women’s National Team captain Sara Gama is presented with a special shirt by FIGC president Gabriele Gravina ahead of her final international appearance. (@AzzurreFIGC)

Before the game, Gama was presented with a special shirt to mark the occasion by FIGC – Italian Football Federation – president Gabriele Gravina and her defensive partner with both the Azzurre and Juventus, Cecilia Salvai.

“It’s been a beautiful journey,” Gama concluded on the pitch post-match, moments before the entire Italy squad reemerged from the dressing rooms with Gama-inspired wigs and singing ‘there’s only one captain’. 

“I have to thank all of the people I’ve crossed paths with during my years with Italy. I want to tell the girls to enjoy themselves because football is a training ground for life, teamwork and sharing emotions is what really counts.”

Gravina joined in and dedicated words of his own to the departing captain. “Sara is an extraordinary athlete and a symbol of the entire movement [of women’s football]. Her 140 caps are testimony of her professionalism, her spirit, and her sacrifice. She’s always shown pride for this shirt, and off the pitch she has been a tireless role model in fighting for the rights of women’s football players, leading to our federation implementing changes. We don’t consider today to be a farewell, but a way to honour her.”

Gravina‘s words, whatever opinion one may have of him, are hard to argue against. Sara Gama‘s career and off-field actions have immortalised her in Italian football history, and it would be wrong to limit that to the women’s game. 

She was the first female footballer that many people in Italy and outside of Italy had heard of, an immediately recognisable face even outside of women’s football circles, and a born leader with an insatiable thirst for success that has seen her lift countless trophies with Juventus and Brescia most notably.

Italy unable to find a way past Ireland

Italy Women’s National Team midfielder Giada Greggi looks to evade Ireland’s Megan Connolly. (@AzzurreFIGC)

While not lacking spice and with neither side shying away from their desire to win, the game left much to be desired. Although Michela Catena passed up the biggest opportunity of the game when clean through on Courtney Brosnan’s goal in the 80th minute by firing way over the crossbar, the Azzurre would have counted themselves lucky to have arrived at that point still without a goal on the board. 

Leanne Kiernan had the ball in Katja Schroffenegger-s goal at the other end of the pitch not too long before Catena went through, but the Ireland forward was deemed to have been offside by the officials. The Fiorentina goalkeeper was called into action to deny Katie McCabe and Kyra Carusa, while Lucy Quinn had a chance that she should have done more with for the visitors.

Italy Women’s National Team’s Benedetta Glionna looks to evade Ireland’s Megan Connolly. (@AzzurreFIGC)

For Italy, despite having a slight edge over an Ireland side recently promoted to League A of the UEFA Women’s Nations League – where they can now meet Italy competitively – weren’t able to give Brosnan too much to worry about, despite Benedetta Glionna, Cristiana Girelli, Martina Piemonte and Giulia Dragoni trying their luck.

Once again for the Azzurre the young Dragoni was the brightest player on the pitch, with the Barcelona teenager and Giada Greggi doing a fine job in midfield against much more physically opposing opposition. 

Centuries for Bonansea and Linari, a first for Oliviero

While Gama made her final appearance and Sampdoria‘s Elisabetta Oliviero made a solid first, both AS Roma defender Elena Linari and Juventus forward Barbara Bonansea hit 100 Azzurre appearances against Ireland


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