Milena Bartolini’s cure: “The coach must follow each single player, individually. So he will have availability and improvements “

Every four years, with the Olympic summers filling newspapers and celebrations, some athletes appear who pass from semi-anonymity to glory. A matter of minutes: more or less perfect performances that are worth the medals at the Games and entry into the restricted category of athletes who have made it. It usually happens in minor disciplines, so defined because of the unbearable habit of weighing the importance of a sport on the basis of the following of the public. But so be it. That’s not the point. The fact is that from being nobody, you become a God. For a few days. And take advantage of the media spotlight. And think back to all the sacrifices made. And the thanks leave. Pay attention to it: the first thank you is usually for “my teacher, the one who believed in me and pushed me to continue despite the difficulties”. Here: the first masters, those who teach sports, who raise men and women to make them become champions. We want to tell them this way: to understand their way of understanding the competition, to discover their methods, to know their anecdotes, to know from whom they have learned. There will be well-known and lesser-known masters, expressions of disciplines with a large or small following. The only common denominator: they are the sport they teach and have helped to improve. (Pi.Gi.Ci.)


“L’trainer to be a good teacher he must take care of his own athletes. I remember fondly above all Paul Bessiwhich trained me in lawn at the end of the 1980s. It had been a number ten of the Pistoiese in Serie C and he taught me a lot ”. Milena Bertolini is the coach of the women’s national football team who played in the World Cup in 2019 after 20 years of absence. She was an excellent player, defender of Serie A and Italy, before a long career as coach. Since 2017 she has been sitting on the blue bench.

“Bessi was very strict and sometimes even tough after certain matches. Thirty years ago the cultural and educational models of parents and coaches were different from now, in fact today we tend to be softer. He taught me the marking, to be determined and also rough on the opponent. During the training matches I always marked him and the first months I didn’t see the ball, but at the end of the season I had improved so much that he never jumped. He also enlightened me on the fact that a defender must also know how to play the ball: I improved a lot in that aspect too, stopping after training to do exercises with the ball on the wall. I learned of his disappearance on the day of the world draw in Paris ”.

The lesson she has brought with her since then?
“That the coach must take care, perhaps in a different way with each one, of all the players. Because the athlete perceives these things, she gives availability and therefore improves ”.

Do you always succeed?
“I try, but I also happened to not make it. At the World Cup in France I spent weeks inside a blender because in those situations there is not only the team to manage but also the outside. Maybe I spent little time on some of the 23, those who played less. In clubs you certainly have more hours available, but in the national team I always set myself the same goal “.

How did you form as a coach?
“I am above all self-taught. I watched many games and with my teammate Federica D’Astolfo, who is also a coach today, we talked a lot about football, analyzing and studying as much as possible. I have always had a great passion for this role, already at 18 I kept a diary where I recorded everything, moreover I soon started working in the youth sectors and as an athletic trainer for amateurs “.

So a lot of men’s football?
“Yes, I have studied a lot Zeman, Ancelotti and Guardiola. I brought with me his offensive mentality and work culture about Zeman. I really like Ancelotti’s ability to relate to his players. Guardiola is the essence of the game. For my thesis on the Uefa Pro coaching course, I went to Masia to study Barcelona. His football goes well with the women’s football as the girls are able to naturally express elegance, technique and harmony ”.

How do you manage to convey football notions to the players you coach?
“Some of the girls I have in the national team I have coached in the past also in clubs. We know each other well. I always try to explain to them the meaning of what they do because I want them to know how to think for themselves on the pitch and always have the ability to choose: there are many matches within a single match and they must be able to find always a solution “.

It’s difficult?
“Girls in general are very receptive, they want to learn and know. A coach who comes from the male area immediately falls in love with women’s football because he finds athletes who listen and this is not just a gratification “.

Would you switch to the masculine?
“When I was in Excellence or in the Modena youth sector during the first training session, the boys looked at me dazed. Then competence helps. I don’t think I would find insurmountable obstacles. There are certainly differences as regards the management of human resources, but it is women who are usually more complex and therefore also more complicated in relationships “.

What are the football ideas you try to convey?
“I don’t transmit preordained schemes, but I work on game principles: immediate aggression, occupation of spaces, management of the ball …”

Is your role different from that of your colleague Roberto Mancini?
“Yup. Some players reach the age of 18 without having made the youth sector and therefore without some game concepts. This is also why women can improve on the basics even at 22. Unfortunately they do not have the same opportunities as men, even if something has changed in the last five years and especially after our beautiful World Cup in 2019 “.

There are many men sitting on the benches of Serie A clubs.
“True, a lot of boys have arrived lately. This can be a problem for the entire movement, impoverished by the fact that former players who know this environment well do not find space. Let’s not forget that even the management is purely male. In general, I think that a world that does not foresee the presence of many women is poorer and has no future ”.

Which players have you had in the past who already showed a predisposition to coach on the pitch?
“At the beginning of my career I coached many girls who until recently were my companions. For the knowledge of football, study and passion I quote Federica D’Astolfo, the goalkeeper Giorgia Brenzan and Manuela Tesse. I should also say Rita Guarino, but above all I played with her ”.

And among today’s blues?
“There are several who have already taken the coaching course. First of all Martina Rosucci, a midfielder who knows how to reason on the pitch and is very curious outside. Then Valentina Cernoia, who knows football and loves to study. I would also see Elena Linari, Sara Gama and Barbara Bonansea well ”.

Next summer the national team will participate in the European championship in England, then in 2023 there is the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
“In July we have the final phase of the European Championship, it is a very difficult tournament: the initial rounds are more competitive than the World Cup. Suffice it to say that seven out of eight teams in the quarter-finals in France were European. Going through the group will not be a walk in the park, our goal is to move forward as much as possible. In the meantime we should qualify for the World Cup, we are second three points behind Switzerland, with whom we lost 1-2 decimated by the covid. The first passes and for the second there are the playoffs: we are still in the process of qualifying. The national team is fundamental for the women’s football movement ”.

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