Sat, Jul 26, 2003 - Page 18 News List

Top Italian club sets sights on women

THE GUARDIAN , ROME

"Women," declared Luciano Gaucci, "have the same rights as men."

Not a sentiment likely to provoke much controversy these days -- unless, as in this case, the speaker is a top football club chairman who has just announced he intends to put a woman into his side before the end of the coming season.

"Our scouts have already begun scouring teams in Germany, Scandinavia and the countries of the former Yugoslavia," said Gaucci, chairman of the Italian Serie A side, Perugia.

"Within six months, we'll have a woman in the squad. I am convinced Perugia can be the first club in the world to have a woman play in the top division with the men," he said.

Gaucci is known for his attention-grabbing ploys. He recently signed up a son of the Libyan leader, Muammar Gadafy, to be a midfielder for Perugia.

But, as Italy's best-known female footballer, Patrizia Panico, noted on Thursday: "he does what he says."

Valentina Belia, captain of Perugia women's team, said it was a "revolutionary idea, but with a good deal of sense."

She said that she would willingly sign up if asked. But Gaucci said he was not looking for an Italian player, "because they are not up to it physically."

Panico said: "It could be fascinating. I can imagine that it would elicit vast interest from photographers, journalists and TV. And sponsors would be interested too."

A point which may, of course, have already occurred to Gaucci.

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