For Part 1 of this series see – bit.ly
Original research by Marco Giani and with special thanks to Rachel Mc Namara for the linguistic review and translation
At the end of Part 1 Marco left us wondering what Marta remembered about the GFC months, the reputation gained by Rosetta for her football skills, the feeling of injustice for being boycotted, the image of the male audience trying to watch her and her football mates and above all, the meeting between Rosetta and the foreign footballer, and his chivalrous gift….. Carry on reading….
5] The second part of the Marta’s Ricordando … quotation sheds new light on the GFC aftermath. Ninì Zanetti [the lively girl who had written a letter in the summer of 1932 to the sports magazine “La Domenica Sportiva”, wondering why Italian girls couldn’t play football] didn’t waste time crying about the boycott of the football team, she immediately switched to basketball, a sport that the Fascist regime was trying to encourage among Italian girls in 1930s’, because: 1) the Italian female youth had to have a team sport [volleyball wasn’t as popular then as it is now] and 2) basketball wasn’t considered as vulgar as football, because physical contact was prohibited. Ninì invited the Boccalini sisters to join her on this new sports adventure. Unfortunately, Marta was too sensitive to her coach’s criticism, but Rosetta found her path, becoming a member of the Ambrosiana female basketball team. Paolo told me that it was for this reason that some years later Rosetta even had the chance to meet Meazza in person at the Ambrosiana annual club dinner, which was attended by both the male football team and the female basketball team. Marta ended this section of her diary underlining just how hard her sister’s life as sportswomen was, Rosetta had the opportunity to travel across Italy [a sort of utopia for a 1930s’ girl coming from a low-class family], but every Monday morning she had to be at school, where her students were waiting for their sporty teacher, who took full advantage of her 30 kilometres daily commute in the Lombardy countryside to stay fit …
6] One day I was reading a book by Ercole Ongaro [1878-1944] about Ettore Archinti, a sculptor who was persecuted by the Fascist regime [he had been the first Socialist mayor of Lodi)], and later died in Flossenbürg, a German concentration camp. I read a line about Ettore [who was a close friend of all of the Boccalini sisters, above all after their father’s death] accompanying Giovanna’s young daughter, Grazia, to the Milan Palaghiaccio ‘ice-rink’ for her skating lesson. In articles about Giovanna Boccalini, none ever mentioned this daughter, who would have been born at the beginning of 1930s. Starting my research on the Internet, I discovered that Grazia Barcellona [Barcellona was her father Giuseppe’s surname] was born in Milan on 22 January 1929, she went on to win numerous Italian figure skating championships during 1940s and 1950s, competing both in the single figure skating and in the pair figure skating, with Carlo Fassi, her long-life skating partner, at the 1948 St. Moritz Winter Olympics. I asked Paolo about Grazia and he told me that she was still alive and living in Milan. So I called her number, and spoke to her son Luigi, he arranged for me to meet his mother on 29 April 2019.
7] Grazia didn’t remember anything in particular about her mother and her aunts’ football experience, except for the fact that they used to tell her that the GFC felt like a sort of family. Just before leaving Grazia’s house, incidentally, the same house in which Giovanna lived until her death in 1991, I asked Luigi and Francesco [Luigi’s brother, who had joined us in the meantime] once again whether they were sure they didn’t have any memorabilia from GFC. Francesco said to Luigi: “What about the photo? Didn’t we have a photo of our aunts in football jerseys?”. They started to search for it, then one of them remembered where it was. It wasn’t hidden at all but just forgotten under a layer of dust, among some cat statues, Grazia loves cats! The photo was there, in the same room where we had been talking for more than an hour!
The picture, which was taken probably at the end of a GFC match, is a sort of Boccalini family “sports” portrait. The presence of Marta implies that it was taken in the Summer or Autumn of 1933, because journalistic sources indicate she only played in July. Marta is the first girl on the left, with a black-and-blue striped jersey, then Luisa “Gina”, wearing a black-and-white striped jersey. The third woman should be Teresa “Ginin”, while the fourth is Giovanna. In front of Giovanna, are her two children: Giacomo “Popi”, who died in 1943, and Grazia. Last but not least, Rosetta is on one knee, wearing a black-and-blue striped jersey.
Although today Grazia doesn’t remember anything about GFC , indeed, how could she, since she was only 4 at the time?!?, she remains the only living witness to the first women’s football team in Italy. Even though her memory betrays her, the hug depicted in this picture is a testament itself to the strong relationship between her and her beloved aunt Rosetta, the most skilful player in the GFC, so skilful in fact that the Italian press renamed her “Meazza in a skirt”.
To read Part 3 of this series please click HERE
Article & Images © Marco Giani
For Giani’s interview with Grazia Barcellona, click HERE
For Italian article published by Corriere della Sera about Marco Giani and Federica Seneghini talking with Grazia Barcellona about GFC, click HERE