Silvia Gottardi restless, adventurous woman born in Padua, is one of the few female basketball players in Italy of international fame. She was the only woman who played against the Harlem Globetrotters during their Italian tour in 2013. We interviewed her in Milan.
SILVIA DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN YOU DECIDED TO DEDICATE YOUR LIFE TO BASKETBALL?
When I was in 6th grade I lived right across a gym. I would often hear sounds and whistles coming from it, so one day I decided to take a peek: they were playing basketball! My dad used to play and with his support I tried too. I immediately fell in love with this beautiful, fun sport, played by simple kids.
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A PROFESSIONAL PLAYER?
Saying “professional player” for a woman in Italy wouldn’t be correct. Officially we are amateurs, even if we play as professionals. When I was very young scouts noticed me, but I chose to follow my parents’ advice and graduate from high school before joining a professional team. My first paycheck as a player I got at 18, then I left home to play at a “professional” level at 19, right after high school.
TELL ME ABOUT THE PROJECT “WOMEN BEHIND THE WHEEL”, THE MISSION AND THE PLACES YOU GOT TO SEE.
Women behind the Wheel is a crazy project I created with my friend Mariella Carimini, to combine two main desires of ours: travelling and charity. Supported by Candido Cannavò Foundation/Gazzetta dello Sport (the number one sports newspaper in Italy) we took four road trips for charity, in a pink car. The goal was to raise money for various projects: each trip was dedicated to a specific project in favor of women. In 4 years we raised over 70 thousand Euros through sponsors and crowd funding (which unfortunately is not as popular in Italy, yet). Travelling without a schedule, hotel reservation or even GPS we got to visit some really amazing places and we met wonderful people. Our trips were: Milan – Ulaan Bataar (Mongolia), Milan – Cape Town, Milan – Tokyo and a tour of Brazil. Listing all the experiences would take too long, but you can find more info, pictures and videos on our website http://www.donnealvolante.com/en/
YOU ARE THE ONLY WOMAN WHO EVER PLAYED AGAINST THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS, HOW DID YOU DO THAT?
In 2012 Candido Cannavò Foundation and the Harlem Globetrotters joined forces for a charity fund during their Italian tour. After many years a woman was to play with the Harlem Globetrotters. I was chosen to play against them as a testimonial for my commitment in social problems and charity, but also to draw attention to the many women in Italy who are victims of violence. It was a unique experience: the environment was very professional as well as fun and joyful. I can never forget the looks on the players’ faces when in the first game I scored a basket immediately!
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO NEW YORK (AND HARLEM)?
I’ve been to New York four times. The last time I went was last Christmas. I have some family (uncles, aunts and cousins) in Manhattan and Long Island, so I can say I know that amazing city pretty well. I love the MOMA, strolling down Soho and going to watch the Nicks play. I’ve never been to Harlem, but I will definitely visit the next time I go!
WHAT’S DIFFERENT BETWEEN ITALIAN AND AMERICAN BASKETBALL?
Men’s basketball, number-wise, is the second most played sport in Italy, after soccer of course, and more and more people are watching it live and on TV. The basketball League is investing to increase the popularity of this sport, but there are several obstacles here, such as the stadiums being too small, and the war on TV rights. Sure basketball in the US is faster and more spectacular, but over here, just like in the rest of Europe, we focus more on technique and strategy. In Italy contact sports like basketball and soccer are considered “male” sports, not suitable for women… but that’s something I will discuss in the documentary I’m currently shooting and hope you will watch “SHE GOT GAME”. For more information and to support our project through crowd funding you can go to: https://www.produzionidalbasso.com/project/she-got-game-the-movie/
WHAT’S YOUR TIPICAL DAY OF PRACTICE?
Now that I no longer play as a “professional” and I’m A2 (the second division) I have a regular day of work. Then at night I train: 4 weekly practices of basketball, one of weight training and a game on Sunday. I play in the Northern round so our games are often far and we have to be gone for whole week-ends. When I played full time my life was all about basketball though, with two daily practices, videos and strategy study, trips all over Italy and Europe for the FIBA Cup. One thing I have maintained is a healthy diet. It’s crucial especially at my age to stay fit and keep up with the younger players.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS?
My blog on basketball and trips SHEGOTGAME is followed a lot, I love writing in it all that comes to mind. (Here you can see the page with the video on experience in the Nicks’ locker rooms last Christmas http://www.shegotgame.it/index.php/36-nbaxmas). That’s where the idea of making a documentary on Women’s Basketball in Italy came from, but I already have other ideas also related to the world of women. In July I am going to Africa, travelling between Kenya and Rwanda. Africa is an amazing continent and basketball is very appreciated by women too. Who knows, we may even make a documentary in the US someday…
ARE YOU FOR OR AGAINST THE “BRAIN DRAIN”?
Totally against. I’m one of those people who stubbornly try to resist, coming up with projects, using all my professional resources and knowledge because I think our Country is wonderful and there is much our youth can do to make it even better. I realize, though, I’m sometimes discouraged, on the verge of giving up and I even think of going somewhere else, where it’s easier to start something, where merit is really valued.
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