Alessandra Nencioni, who retired from professional football last June, is hoping the Master in Sport Marketing and Sponsorship will open doors for her in the sports industry. “Football has made me the person I am. I have a lot to contribute to the sports industry after the master’s,” she says
Alessandra Nencioni has dedicated 13 years of her life to women’s football, 12 of them with various teams in Italy and one in Seattle, an experience she will never forget. A few months shy of her 34th birthday, the Florentine is looking for new challenges in her professional career, having decided to call time on her playing days last June. Her restless nature and the need to supplement her football income have led her to take on a variety of jobs outside of sport. “I had to find other ways to survive because as a footballer in Italy, especially when I started, it was difficult to earn money. But I couldn’t give up football, I liked it too much,” she says. The sports industry will be her next destination.
The Master in Sport Marketing and Sponsorship Online at Johan Cruyff Institute has set her on the path to what she really wants to do from now on: use all her experience as a professional footballer and her recent sport management training to continue working in the sports industry from a management perspective.
During her visit to Barcelona for her graduation, Alessandra spoke to us about her years as a professional athlete, her concerns and how she sees her future. During her short time in the United States, she already ventured into the creation of a women’s football team. Now she has all the time in the world to take on new projects.
When I read your LinkedIn profile, I saw that you describe yourself as much more than just a football player. You have also worked in a grocery store, a nursery as an English teacher, an insurance company and a start-up, and there is much more to come. Tell us about your future plans in the sports industry.
As a footballer in Italy, it’s hard to make money, especially when I started playing a few years ago. So, I had to try to do something else, find other ways to survive, but at the same time I loved football so much that I couldn’t give up. So yeah, I’ve had a lot of different experiences and I think they’ve helped me a lot to become the footballer that I was until June, the person that I am now and also the worker that I can be in the future. What are my plans for the future? That’s a good question. I think I want to stay in the sports industry. That’s why I did the master’s and I think I have a lot to give to the world of sport. I guess we’ll see.
Would you recommend a dual career to other professional athletes?
I recommend it now because in Italy, fortunately, women’s football has become professional. So we have this status, now they are considered real workers. But I still think it is necessary to have a second education, a parallel one, not because of the money, but for personal growth and for the people we are.
“Fortunately, women’s football has become professional in Italy, but I still think it is necessary to have a second education, a parallel one, not because of the money, but for personal growth”
Can you give us some tips on how to make it work?
Well, first of all, I chose an online course. That’s helpful because you can manage your time however you want and however you feel like it. It’s all about managing yourself, your time, how you feel and if you can do something. And, of course, passion. I think that was what drove me at least. It’s not the passion for the sport, it’s the passion for studying. So if you do something that you really like, that you really love, then you put in the extra effort. So I think that’s the trick.
“I chose an online program because you can manage your time however you want; if you do something that you really like, that you really love, then you put in the extra effort”
You have spent your sporting career in Italy and the United States. What are your best memories in both leagues?
Well, in Italy, in terms of football, I think last year was the transition to professional football. I think I’m a part of that and I think it’s nice that I played for so long in, let’s say, bad conditions, but in the end, with my little help, I was able to help the future generations. So I think it’s a nice memory, for sure. And in the States, first of all, just to be there, to have the opportunity to be there and to get to know such a different environment. Because in the States we know that women’s professional football is much more advanced, especially in relation to the Italian game. So just to be there. I remember my first game, it was like, wow, I’m here.
While playing in Seattle, you were also involved in the creation, growth and development of the women’s team OSA Seattle FC. Was it your own decision to get involved?
I’ll try to keep it short because it’s actually a very long story. So I went there the first summer by myself. I was the only foreign player in an American team, in the local team, and it was a very bad moment for Italian football at that time, like maybe the lowest moment. And I was there and I thought this is a dream for me, I mean this is a dream for Italian footballers, female footballers. And I met an Italian entrepreneur who lived there and he was involved in (American) football and soccer. And we had the idea because in America you can do that just to create the team. And if you want to play in a better league, you pay more, but you can do it. So we decided to just try and build the team from scratch. And the purpose of that team was to bring Italian players over there to have the same experience that I had. So that is how it was born.
What would you do to bring more women to managerial positions in sport?
Well, it’s an interesting question again, because I’m Italian and I live in a country where the gender gap is really high. It’s a big gap. I think that sport, it’s always aimed at men, at the male side. I think we have to break this stereotype that sport is only for men. And we are doing that, but I think the more we expose young girls to sport, whatever sport they want to do, in whatever way they want to do it, the easier it will be to get them interested as well. And, of course, I think that women have different characteristics than men, especially when they’re managers. So, I think there’s a need, not only in sport, but in everything. But for sure we have to start from the roots and we have to bring girls closer to sport, in every sport.
“I had fun studying, I really liked the way the system is built, the method you use; you meet people from all over the world with completely different experiences; that was the best part of this master’s”
What was your experience of doing the Master in Sport Marketing and Sponsorship Online?
I have been talking about this master’s to everyone around me with such enthusiasm that I have actually brought a few people to join you. I had a wonderful experience. I didn’t expect it at the beginning because I had done other online courses and I wasn’t happy with them. So I started thinking about how it works and the more I got into it the better it was. I had fun studying, I really liked the way the system is built, the method you use and I especially liked the forum, the discussions. You meet people from all over the world with completely different experiences, you put them all together and they share their own thoughts and that was the best part of this master’s.