Elisa Bartoli: The journey from first Roma Women captain to Scudetto securer

On 17th June, 2001, Roma’s hometown hero and club captain Francesco Totti, who supported the Giallorossi growing up, opened the scoring on the day they won Serie A for the third time in their history.

On 29th April, 2023, Roma Women’s hometown hero and club captain Elisa Bartoli, who supported the Giallorossi growing up, scored the decisive winning goal as the team won Serie A Femminile for the first time in their history.

Perhaps it was written in the stars that the day Roma Women won their first Scudetto would involve two players who had been there right from the start of the journey as the main protagonists. The goals in Roma’s 2-1 win over Fiorentina were scored by Giada Greggi and Bartoli – both founding members of the women’s team from 2018, both born in Rome, both fervent Roma supporters.

With the way Roma have been dominating in Serie A Femminile this season, it had become a matter of when, not if, they would win their first ever league title in 2022-23, but how fitting it was for two players with passion for the club running through their veins to get them over the line.

Midfield dynamo Greggi has enjoyed an outstanding individual season, yet still has the bulk of her career ahead of her. Bartoli, meanwhile, will celebrate her 32nd birthday in May, so this Scudetto represents the culmination of an arduous career of commitment and dedication.

When Bartoli – by then a regular feature for the Italy international team – left the already established Fiorentina (the first ever professionally affiliated women’s team in Italian football, with whom she had already won a Scudetto in 2016-17, as well as the Coppa Italia in consecutive seasons) to join the first ever Roma Women squad in 2018, some around her raised eyebrows.

Of course, Bartoli was an ardent supporter of her hometown club from childhood. But at the time, she had no way of dreaming that she could one day play for them.

Thus, when Roma finally incorporated a women’s team into their setup in 2018, the passionate Romanista – who had began her career with the non-affiliated Roma CF – jumped at the chance to join them as their first captain. But sentiment aside, was this the right move for a player who, 27 at the time, was in the prime of her career, and would have had Champions League football on offer by staying at Fiorentina?

In Bartoli’s mind, there were no doubts about where she wanted to be. In those formative years of the Roma Women project, the captain was among the setup’s standout players, thriving from left-back. Her committed approach enabled her to have an impact on the team, backing up her leadership abilities with her on-field qualities. A bicycle-kick goal against Orobica in February 2019 was a highlight of her inaugural Roma season, in which she played in all 22 league games.

She subsequently stayed in Italy’s squad for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, proving that she was still worthy despite now playing for a side that had finished fourth (a respectable attempt for a debut season) in Serie A Femminile.

That summer, more players of serious pedigree followed Bartoli to Roma – including fellow future Scudetto winners Andressa Alves, Manuela Giugliano and Camelia Ceasar – which perhaps justified the leap she took one year before. The project under Betty Bavagnoli would continue to develop, leading to Bartoli being able to lift her first trophy with her beloved club in 2021 – the Coppa Italia after a penalty-shootout win over AC Milan.

Subsequently, Bavagnoli stepped up to the role of Head of Women’s Football, while Alessandro Spugna came in as Roma’s new coach. For the club as a whole, the new structure would ultimately prove to be inspired.

But in Spugna’s first season, Bartoli – now into her thirties – had to adapt. Sometimes featuring as an outer centre-back in a three-player defensive line, she no longer had licence to dominate territory like she used to. In the grand scheme of things, though, something special was building.

Roma finished second that season, pushing champions Juventus far and earning their first experience of Champions League football for the 2022-23 campaign. What was to follow would be the most exciting season yet in Giallorosse history.

This time around, Bartoli featured more often at right-back, accounting for the summer exit of Angelica Soffia and a mid-season injury to Lucia Di Guglielmo. It was in that role that Bartoli started against her former side Fiorentina on 29th April, knowing a win would secure Roma the Scudetto with three games to spare.

Greggi – who would end the afternoon in tears of euphoria – put Roma ahead, before Milica Mijatovic equalised against her own former side. Yet in the 63rd minute, Bartoli scored a historic goal.

Finding herself in the opposition box, the captain swung an effort on goal with her left foot, seeing it settle in the far corner. Roma were ahead again and on the verge of becoming champions.

Bartoli, who originally played for Roma as a right-footed left-back, had just scored the title-clinching goal with her left foot after starting at right-back. It epitomises how she has put herself at the service of the team from their origins to their highest point.

In truth, there have been better players in this Scudetto-winning squad than Bartoli, but the dependable defender deserved to have the final say, putting the finishing touches to an emphatic success story.

During the post-match celebrations, Bartoli went into the stands and took the microphone of the PA system, leading chants of ‘Forza Roma, Roma campione’ with her jubilant teammates on the pitch. Speaking to La7 in an interview, she then jokingly vowed to celebrate this Scudetto for a year and a half.

And who could blame her?

An achievement like this will last long in the memory. Whenever the time comes for Bartoli to retire (Roma extended her contract until 2025 back in February), she might look back on this achievement as her proudest. The emotions will still be sinking in, just as they visibly overwhelmed Greggi too, but what they have accomplished has been set in stone.

Things like this don’t happen all too often in any player’s career, let alone one representing their beloved hometown team. Bartoli already had legendary status for Roma Women, but this has absolutely ensured it.

Along with Greggi, Annamaria Serturini and Claudia Ciccotti, Bartoli is one of the few players remaining from the original Roma Women squad who went all the way to the title. It has been quite the journey over these past five years, but the last 12 months in particular have been special. Winning a second trophy in the shape of the Supercoppa Italiana, embarking on a European adventure that enabled Bartoli to play at Stadio Olimpico and Barcelona’s Camp Nou, and ending Juventus’ dominance in Serie A with a fully deserved Scudetto of Roma’s own.

Totti – who gave his compliments to the squad after their victory – once said that winning a Scudetto with Roma is like winning 10 elsewhere; similarly, this success will mean a massive deal to Bartoli, who echoed the same comment in an April 2020 interview. Now, she knows what it feels like.

At the time of the Scudetto win, only Serturini has ever played more games for Roma than Bartoli, but the captain has surpassed her and everyone else in terms of starts. Bartoli’s 120th game for Roma was her 116th start, and brought up her 16th goal.

It is beyond doubt that the significance of what she helped secure on 29th April will carry more weight than anything else that has happened yet on arguably the most pioneering individual story within the Roma Women project.

Thank you, captain.

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