Euro 2022 winner Alessia Russo on making history, inspiring a generation and that viral backheel goal
Alessia’s childhood is in the snow, on her grandparents’ farm in Sardinia, before a footballing career was on the cards.
In Italy, Alessia was considered something of a talent. The goalkeeper, who was born in Sicily, was picked up by a local football-mad club to travel to the UK to train with Sunderland for a trial.
A few months later, she was at Sunderland’s training ground in Gosforth, near Darlington. After a routine training session, she was approached by Sunderland’s top official: “Hey, your grandmother says she’s called Francesca and she wants to meet you.”
The official was in the know: he was already close to being in the starting line-up to face Arsenal in the Europa League round of 16.
Alessia went head-to-head with Gianluca Di Marzio in the group stage, where Arsenal were eliminated at the group stage for the first time in 11 years.
But then, she would go on to be named on the bench to a Manchester United squad competing in the Champions League. From there to the World Cup, where she made her national team debut. And, with United, she found herself on the big stage and facing the biggest challenge of her career.
On the day before the Group F opener against Greece, she was on the bench for England’s UEFA Nations League match against the Netherlands.
We’re here at Villa Park, in the Premier League – but not in England. The United States
I’ve said before that one of the defining moments of my life was when I was a teenager and was given the opportunity to represent England in an international tournament.
Playing for England is always something that you take with you, and it’s something that you’ve always wanted to be a part of. I had dreams of being a professional footballer and for that reason, I was delighted to say yes to it.
After winning her first cap for England against Scotland in November 2009, I was in the squad to represent my homeland in the Under-17 World Cup in August 2010. That was a moment in my life where I felt like I was on the right path.