Whilst out in Cyprus for the annual friendly tournament, VAVEL UK sat down with Juventus and Italy attacker Barbara Bonansea to talk about Juventus and Italy... and superpowers.
Learning from the boys
Playing from a young age, first with the boys before moving over to a girls team, Bonansea’s passion for football was unsurprisingly sparked by the men in her family.
“My older brother and my father were passionate about football, when I was young I started playing with the boys on the team of the little town where I’m from," Bonansea said. "I played until I was 12 and then I moved to Torino (Femminile).”
Like many female footballers, the 26-year-old’s talents were honed by playing with the boys, her abilities brought into contrast when she joined a girls team.
“I learned a lot from the men because they are quicker, but I was always the strongest even with the boys, so when I went to play with women I realised I was smarter and quicker than the girls who’d never played with the boys.”
Utilised as a wing-back at Brescia, Bonansea was already well-used to playing a more defensive role though the attacker has never been more than six days away from leading the charge.
“On Saturdays when I played with boys my age, I was always an attacker but on Sundays when I played with older boys I was in defence. With the girls I was always a striker and when I was at Brescia with Milena [Bertolini] and we played in a 3-5-2, I played on the wing so I had to defend and as well as attack and that helped me stay focused in games.”
In an interview given four years ago, the Pinerolesi attacker predicted a move away from Italy in her future, a change of situation in Italy leaving her passport - as of yet - underused.
“When I said that, being a professional in Italy wasn’t an option and when I left Brescia I thought that maybe some teams would see me at the Euros and would offer me a contract abroad. But then Juventus came along and offered me a what I wanted and I knew I could stay in Italy, play in my home in Torino and be a professional.”
When asked to describe herself as a footballer, Bonansea was quick to point out her flaws as well as her strengths.
“Instinctive, quick, inconsistent, two-footed, not good with my head… and I run a lot.”
Catching the eye
One of the undisputed stars of the Euros, the tournament helped catapult the Italian into the public eye, a move to Juventus helping her gain even more recognition particularly with I Bianconeri highlights so readily available.
“Teams who might have signed me, they saw me. But I had more fans, not just in Italy but all over the world and now also because of Juventus, fans of the men’s team have started to support the women’s team so there are more there too.”
In her first major tournament outing, Bonansea remembers not the goals Italy scored but those that failed to find their way into the net, a moment against the eight-time European Champions colouring her tournament.
“I remember the match against Germany – we had lost to Russia – we were losing to Germany 1-2 and I had a shot but the goalkeeper was very good and she saved it… but if I would have scored and we had drawn maybe we could have progressed. So, I always remember that match more than anything else. Because I hadn’t played in Sweden in 2013 I was looking to the Euros and the Germany game was like a dream, if I had scored we could have progressed.”
Since the Euros, it’s been all-change for Italy, with Antonio Cabrini leaving his role as coach and Bonansea’s coach from Brescia, Milena Bertolini taking the reins, the latter’s Italy a more harmonious unit.
“When Cabrini arrived, he was used to coaching men but when Milena came she was used to training and coaching women and these are two completely different worlds. So, what she’s very good at is creating a group in which everyone is working for the same goals and they really get on very well with each other. It’s an amazing group, we all help each other and those who play are happy but those who are on the bench aren’t angry; everyone in harmony. That’s the most important, thing the creation of a group, this togetherness but having come from men’s football maybe that’s Cabrini didn’t understand and he wasn’t able to create this. It’s not about the technical or the football but it’s the most important aspect.”
The footballer Bonansea bases her style on is a Real favourite.
A goal against a former Italian powerhouse one that’s gone down as the 26-year-old’s favourite she's scored so far in her career.
“When I was at Brescia I scored against Torres… I started from the half-way and went all the way, that was favourite because Torres had won five championships in a row, they were the biggest team.”
Though answering in Italian, Bonansea’s answer to her least favourite part of football was more than understandable in any language.
“No, nothing. I love it all, it’s my life.”
When given the chance to pick a superpower the attacker paused, noting that she already had super speed but ultimately opted for the upgrade to flying,