It has been a topsy-turvy year for Lazio women’s team but in the end they managed to steer out of trouble and return to the Serie A Femminile after an absence of eight seasons.
The return of the Biancocelesti in the top-flight would not have been possible without the contribution of two Malta internationals in Emma Lipman and Rachel Cuschieri.
Both players joined the Rome-based club prior this campaign with the objective of helping Lazio return to the top-flight as club president Claudio Lotito is looking to strengthen his team’s name in the women’s game as well.
The Maltese duo were among the marquee signings that the club made alongside highly-experienced forward Adriana Martina who had spells at Atletico Madrid and Chelsea in the past, and was also a prolific striker with the Spain national team – scoring eight goals in two games against Malta in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifications.
Lipman, a highly-experienced defender in Italian football, was brought in to lead by example and she was eager to embark on this project and help the club win promotion.
“My reasoning behind my move to Lazio was because I wanted to be successful in Italy and Lazio gave me the chance to join them and try to reach Serie A promotion,” Lipman told the Times of Malta.
“This was maybe the strangest seasons in all of my career as we knew that we were the best team and had a lot of quality, but something was missing.
“Thankfully, our coaches, Carolina Morace and Nicola Williams, came in midway into the season and managed to create a special environment where we are challenged on an individual and collective level.”
Lazio were tipped as hot favourites to dominate the Serie B but after seven draws in their first 14 games, they were sitting in fifth and the situation seemed out of control.
“Obviously, we are pleased to have reached our goal and climb into Serie A,” Cuschieri said.
“I admit that I lost a bit of hope in the first part of the season as we were not winning a lot of games while not performing very well either.
“Nonetheless, as soon as there was the Morace appointment, there was an injection of self-belief in this team and everyone is now striving to perform at their best.”
Morace’s appointment, on Matchday 15, sparked Lazio into life as a run of 10 positive results propelled them into second place, cementing their place in Serie A following last weekend’s win over Roma Calcio Femminile.
“Coaches Morace and Williams have been incredibly professional and given they have been in the women’s game for a long time, they knew our needs,” Lipman highlighted.
“I admire coach Morace because she is not afraid to give responsibility to the players and when she speaks, it is clear that there is a thinking process behind it and not purely instinct.
“Unfortunately, I was absent for a long time due to injury and did not have the chance to learn much more from her due to my rehabilitation, but I have the utmost respect for her and the staff because they are truly professional in their jobs.”
Cuschieri heaped praise on Morace’s work ethic as she credits the Italy great for instilling into her a positive mindset and enjoy football once again.
“With Morace’s arrival, I feel happy and I am enjoying the game once again,” the Malta midfielder said.
“She helped me push myself and I am very pleased to play for her because I always want coaches to push me and test me to the limit, and coach Morace helped me in that way.”
Lipman’s experience has also helped her adapt quickly at her new club, having been already in Italy’s capital two seasons before.
In fact, the Malta women player played for Roma during the 2019 season before moving to Florentia San Gimignano the following year.
Thus, Lipman joined a notable list of players who played for both Roma and Lazio in their career including Angelo Peruzzi, Roberto Muzzi and Sinisa Mihajlovic.
“Roma vs Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico? That would be great, both for the women’s game but even for football in Rome itself – it would be a spectacle,” Lipman admitted.
“Despite already being in Italy, this was my first time in Serie B and I could observe the Italian movement from a different perspective.
“There is a lot of competitiveness, because even the Serie B is not an easy league but I think there is still a lot improve in order to bridge the gap between the first-tier and second-tier for example.”
On the other hand, for Cuschieri this was her first ever experience in Italian football.
Once again, the Malta women midfielder has added another success to her career after her clean sweep of silverware in Malta (Birkirkara) and Cyprus (Apollon Ladies), alongside her success in Belgium with Anderlecht.
“It’s always nice to win something when you are in a different country and this year was different for me as I was in the second-tier for the first time,” she said.
“It’s a big source of pride for me and I don’t like to lose, so I try to push myself and win always and now I am looking forward to what next season brings.
“Obviously, the level in Serie B is different from the Belgian or the Dutch league but I am grateful for this experience as I regained confidence in myself, got more playing time and I enjoyed this challenge and playing in the Serie A would be an important stage for me.
“But I am yet to decide about my future.”