Writing her own legacy
By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor
When watching soccer on television, many will see the glitz and glamour of the sport they love. They see the players playing at the highest level - making great plays on the pitch. They see their favorite teams and players hoisting the World Cup or Champions League trophy.
What they don’t see is these same players grinding everyday to get better. They don’t see them starting from the bottom and working their way to the top. Not every player in Messi or Ronaldo. Not every player is making the money where they can afford anything they at a drop off a hat.
A lot of footballers are looking for their next break, or even first break. They are jumping leagues trying to get playing time. They are picking up odd jobs, while playing soccer, just so they can chase their dreams of playing at the top of their profession.
It’s a grind. A grind that some players don’t want to have to go through. Other players like the grind. They like feeling like they accomplished something.
Italian National team keeper Laura Giuliani knows what it’s like to have to grind early on in her soccer career. She started her career in Italy before heading off to Germany to find more success on the soccer field.
While in Germany Giuliani did what most might not do, she got a job. So, when she wasn’t practicing on the pitch, she was working to help herself continue to realize her dream. In the beginning she was forced to work, not Giuliani does it to meet people and give herself a sense of where she came from to where she is today.
“For the entire time I played in Germany I have been working beside football. At the beginning, as I got to Germany, I didn’t earn enough money from the club to be able to live. So I looked for a job. The first year I worked in a factory, the second in a bakery, the third, in Cologne, in the Fan-Shop and when I was in Freiburg I worked as bartender and waitress,” explained Giuliani. “At the beginning I was forced to work and play, but in the last years it became a personal choice because it gave me the chance to do something out of the football world and to meet new people, to learn something new and to handle with a new language, a new culture and a different way of living. If I think about what I did I’m sure that everything I did helped me to build up my career, my personality and my character. When I’m tired or in a bad mood and I go on the pitch I always remember the time when I couldn’t do just what I loved and all the efforts I did to be there now. Than everything gets easier and I start to smile again.”
Smiling is something that you will see Giuliani do a lot. She is happiest when she is on the pitch. Her hard work and determination has paid off as Giuliani has made it through the ranks of Italian soccer.
She got her start with the Italy U19 team and eventually made it to the senior squad. This past summer Giuliani backstopped the Italians at the 2019 World Cup in France. Italy made a magical run, winning their group, before falling to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.
The run that Giuliani and her teammates made gripped a country as a record number of Italians watch as they progressed through the tournament.
“Playing in the World Cup for me was a privilege and it was an honor to represent Italy in the world, and to bring it back to the best eight teams worldwide,” stated Giuliani. “We all hoped that the World Cup would have helped women’s football to grow up in Italy and our great result have brought more that we expected. Many people that had never watched a football match - or a female one - was following us and supporting us from home and many traveled a lot to support us directly at the stadiums. All this visibility brought people to know us and to become passionate to our way to play. Now girls want to become footballers and this is no more “unusual” as it used to be. This is just the beginning of a long way of growth but we are confident in the future.”
The future is also bright for Giuliani, who enters her second year playing her club soccer at Juventus. Juventus has been a dominating force on the men’s side winning eight-straight Serie A titles, and the women’s aren’t that far behind.
Since benign formed in 2017, Juventus has won back-to-back titles and Giuliani is a big reason why. Her form in goal has her people thinking about another keeper that wore the black and white stripe kit in Gigi Buffon.
A goalkeeping idol, Buffon is the reason why a lot of boys and girls want to play the keeper position. After one-year away, Buffon is back with the club that he helped take to new heights.
“As I started to play football my unquestioned idol was Buffon and I always tried to get better looking at him and at his way of play,” stated Giuliani. “Today I have no idols: my favorite keeper is Alisson Becker, but I try to observe every goalkeeper and to analyze their skills to find out what I can learn from them.”
As Giuliani will tell you, being a goalkeeper is an easy position. A keeper needs to be on point every time they enter the pitch. They don’t see a lot of shots during a contest, and when they do, they have to make sure they are at their best.
One mistake could cost the team a chance at a win. It’s a lot of pressure on one person. Even the best keepers in the world can crack under the pressure and the bright lights. It’s the one’s that show the resolve mentality that go from being a good keeper to one of the best keepers in the world.
“I think the goalkeeper is mentally the most difficult role. We don’t run a lot, sometimes we have to stand for long time watching the game from the other part of the pitch and we feel useless. But then, when at the 90th minute we get a shot at the goal, we have to be ready to save it. If we don’t, we get critics. Then it’s very important for a keeper to find the best way for him/herself to stay focused for the whole time on the pitch,” stated Giuliani. “Being awake doesn’t mean just to save a goal at the end of the game, but also preventing dangerous actions from opponents. Making a mistake is a part of the game and staying mentally tuned on the match is the best way to avoid it. But when it happens, we have to look forward, accept it and switch immediately focusing on the next action. At the end of the match than there is plenty of time to analyze it and to work on it. And remember always: everyone makes mistakes. The most important thing is not to take mistakes personally but as a chance to grow, in football as in life.”
Outside of the microscope that is soccer, Giuliani is a talented writer. She uses writing to calm herself down when she feels things getting a little tight. But, if she didn’t have this wonderful sport called soccer, she could easily go into writing.
Everyone has a routine before a match. For Giuliani is putting her thoughts on paper. The blank canvas allows her to get her thoughts out there without restriction. Giuliani doesn’t worry about spelling or grammar. It’s about taking that blank canvas and making it whatever she wants.
Giuliani has written many chapters in her young career, and her book still needs to be filled.
“There are moments in which writing is for me the best way to throw out what I’m feeling inside. Usually before or after a match I write down what I have in my mind and in my heart without giving me limitations and restrictions,” stated Giuliani. “I just fill up the white space I have in front of me with every single word flowing out without thinking if the grammar is right or wrong and if the text makes sense or not. The correction is a work I do later to create a sensible text. Writing helps me to cool down, to free my mind from my thoughts and feelings of the moment and to dive in a new inner dimension.”
The new dimension that Giuliani is working toward is greatness. Not many people knew outside of Italy new who Giuliani was before the World Cup. After her performance in France a lot of people now know the name Laura Giuliani.
She is on the cusp of being great, and this is only the beginning. Sure the World Cup is over for another four years. But there are still the European Championships and other major competitions for both club and country.
This is just the beginning for Giuliani. The book isn’t finished, it still has a few more chapters to be written.
“Reading my name among the best keepers in the world makes me very proud. I worked a lot to get to this point and I focused everyday to get better and to become a better goalkeeper and person,” stated Giuliani. “I didn’t work just on one skill but on every mental, physical and technical aspect that could have helped me to reach my goals.”