Over the weekend’s Serie A Femminile action, Empoli came away from Napoli with a 3-3 draw, thanks to a late goal from their midfielder Norma Cinotti.
A native of Florence (Bagno a Ripoli, to be precise), Cinotti came through the ranks at local club Firenze. This was before Fiorentina would take over the club, and when that happened in 2015, she moved on to nearby Castelfranco. The following season, they too were taken over by another club, Empoli, and Cinotti would this time be retained by the new owners.
“I started when I was 12, when I used to play in the park with my friends every day,” Cinotti said. “The matches lasted entire afternoons, but that was where I learned to play against the strongest [players], I didn’t fear anything, I just wanted to play.
“I always knew that I wanted to become a footballer, but the first time I was called to train with the first team was when I realized that I could really be one of them. That’s when I started working on myself even more.”
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At that stage, Cinotti was also a big fan of Premier League football, and as a midfielder herself, there was one player in particular who caught her eye.
“One of my favourites was definitely Paul Scholes,” she said, “he was a pure talent”.
Cinotti’s first club was in her native city. With Firenze, she came up through the youth team and broke into the first team at age 16. By 20, at Empoli, she helped her club to promotion in their first season. Playing in every game that term, her 14 goals made her the club’s top scorer in the league and took the team to the top of Serie B.
The following season, however, would see Empoli finish bottom of the Serie A table and head straight back down to the second tier.
This was when Cinotti decided to move abroad for a new experience. She only spent one season away from Italy, but in that time, she played in the French Division 2 with ASPTT Albi before moving on to Belgium where she won the league title with Anderlecht. Travelling is something that she also enjoys in her personal life.
“I love travelling, so every place that I visited has given me different emotions and brings back good memories,” Cinotti said.
“I loved Lisbon so much, but also Seville. The north of Europe is somewhere I also really enjoyed; Stockholm, Oslo, and Copenhagen. I especially love the architectural spaces and the coexistence with nature, which is strongly present in those cities.”
After her time abroad, she returned to her former club, Empoli, who had again won promotion back up to Serie A. Of course, there are plenty of places in Italy for visitors to explore and her native Tuscany may just be the ideal destination to start with.
“Italy has so much to offer, you can choose between sea, mountains and historical sites,” Cinotti said. “I’m from Florence, so I recommend visiting my city, as well as Rome, Naples, Venice and so on.
“I think that a tourist should visit historic and big cities, but also spend some time in the smaller villages. In Tuscany, there are so many little villages on the hills, which are fascinating and very suggestive.”
After the harsh realities of top-flight football which Empoli experienced after their previous promotion, last season they managed to hold their own, and were in eighth place when the season ended prematurely.
The current campaign has seen the club improve even further. At present they sit sixth in the table, just two points behind Fiorentina. She gave us her reasons for the club’s progression.
“I think there is a combination of things that has led to us improving, starting with the arrival of new players,” she said. “They have helped raise the level of the team.
“In general, I think our secret is that we are a group, staff and players, that wants to improve every day and we help each other in every situation.
“The level and competition of Serie A is now higher, it’s more interesting. Each of us has the duty of improving not only personally but also for the entire movement.”
Cinotti has been an ever-present in the starting XI yet again this season, something which can be vital to a player’s confidence and consistency.
“This is one of the most important things, and it gives me the answers and the motivation in those difficult moments,” she said of her consistency. “I want to improve for myself, for my team, and of course scoring decisive winners is the result of the work we do every week. A goal is always the achievement of the entire group and it is one of the best feelings in football.”
Cinotti has already improved on her goals total this season, with seven so far. These have included the winning goals in games against Napoli and Verona.
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In yesterday’s game at Napoli, Cinotti and her team looked like coming away with nothing from the game, having taken a 2-0 lead early on, they were pegged back and were behind at 3-2. With just six minutes left to play, Cinotti grabbed the equaliser, saving a point for Empoli.
She believes though, that there is always something better around the corner, which makes choosing her favourite goal a difficult task.
“Maybe one of the winners from this season, but I think that my favourite goal has yet to come,” she said.
While she is certainly enjoying her football career, her studies in Florence meant that she always had other options.
“I study literature and languages so maybe I would be in an Erasmus year abroad to complete my studies in a different country,” she said, wondering how things would be had she not been playing football. “I really enjoy studying and personally experiencing different cultures, landscapes, and people.”
At just 24 years old, Cinotti still has plenty of time left in her playing career. To finish off, we asked her about her future objectives and what else she would like to achieve in the game.
“My dream, like the dream of every girl who starts playing football, is to be part of the national team,” she said. “I would also like to play in the Champions League, but I have to get better and work every day to strengthen my qualities and improve on my weaknesses.”