Euro 2022 winner Alessia Russo on making history, inspiring a generation and that viral backheel goal.
“I was born in a village outside Rome, which is still my hometown, I graduated from high school in a tiny village called Forli, I started playing football at the age of 14, I was a normal teenage boy but at the same time I had already been in love with a girl.
“I was a little shy but after a few months I started to like all sports, to go to a gym with my friends, to play a lot. Everything just felt better. I did everything. I liked to be in a group and to have someone to be around with that I looked up to, and to play with the other guys and so on, and then one day at school I realised I was good at football, not just football, I played other things too, and in my village the only sport that was played was football, but I was not a footballer. I was a girl, a virgin, an ugly girl and so on.
“I started to play with boys, football was everywhere, school football, club football; there were a lot of teams around here. And a lot of guys started to notice me, and they would tell me ‘Alessia you have a great game to play’, and I would say, ‘Yes, yes, I’m really good at this’, and they would say, ‘This is great, you’re too good, you have to do more training’.
“I took on this goal with my hand, I was so nervous, I couldn’t feel anything, I couldn’t feel the air on my legs. I just wanted to do something extraordinary, to break the glass ceiling. I started to lose my femininity in the game, in the dressing room, in the village, I would be very popular, in the dressing room I would be the one that got to wear the tight-fitting T-shirt, and then I would start to run, I would be laughing.
“I was 15 years old, I still had two years left to go until I had to go to school, I was like a teenager, I had to decide, there was not much I could do; I had to live a normal life and