During their brief existence (since 2018), Roma has achieved a number of milestones, but Roma's women have one they've yet to conquer: finding a striker who can rightfully make the number 9 shirt memorable on this side of the club. The first player to try her hand at it was New Jersey-native Maria Zecca for two seasons, but Zecca never really cracked the first eleven during her stay. In January 2021, Marija Banusic arrived in Rome as Zecca’s heir—albeit in a different mold of striker entirely—but now Roma has officially let Banusic go after just six months at the club.
It was announced, late in the evening hours today, that Banusic has officially moved on to newly-promoted Serie A side Pomigliano for the 2021-2022 season. Pomigliano are a whirlwind story of their own which we might cover later, but Banusic did actually manage to make a splash during her brief five-game Roma career; lest we forget the club put forward Banusic for the Goal of the Season award in 2021:
Never in doubt, was it?!— AS Roma Women (@ASRomaWomen) June 23, 2021
Our Goal of the Season was this effort from @maredinho! #ASRomaWomen #ASRoma pic.twitter.com/7urIM6x2iQ
That spectacular bicycle-kick goal aside, Banusic was never really given a run in the team by former coach Betty Bavagnoli. The Swede’s checkered career at top level gave hints that a striker who could compete with the best Europe had to offer was certainly in the background, but now Banusic counts Roma among the list of many clubs where the striker failed to find a long-term home. Will Roma leave to regret this decision when facing Pomigliano in the league next season? Or is Banusic just a passing flame?
Pomigliano were initially hailed as heroes for even achieving Serie A promotion this past May, as they would have (and for the moment still look like being) one of the last remaining, non-franchised, independent clubs—alongside neighbors Napoli—fighting for a right to compete in the new-look, 10-club only, “you can’t sit with us” Serie A league that will launch in 12 months time.
There’s an unmistakable air of cynicism from long-standing women’s football figures around Italy, at the moment, around how the traditional football franchises have taken over the leading clubs in the women’s game and have used their money to effectively form a “Serie A Super League” with very little financial kickbacks down to Serie B and below, from 2022 onwards.
Just the fact that this season’s Serie B league will be competing for one, solitary promotion spot to next year’s top flight is really a poor reward for those who’ve hung around in the women’s game for so long. But times change and football has to move with the times.
Personally, I’m in favor of a more competitive, restricted Serie A format as long as it’ll raise the level of competition in the league and raise the profile of Italian football in general. That’s the idea, anyway. Whatever eventual outcome professional women’s football in Italy brings about, Pomigliano may not turn out to be the “people’s champion” of clubs for the romantics, when it’s all said and done. The club is heavily rumored to be considering a partnership with Aurelio De Laurentiis’ Napoli C.F. franchise on the men’s side of football, with a possible renaming to “Pomigliano Napoli” for this coming season.
And with Florentia San Gimignano having sold their Serie A deeds to Sampdoria, that would leave pretty much just Napoli Femminile (unaffiliated with Napoli C.F.) as the lone, independent club in Italy’s top flight this season. Still following us? Yeah, we’ll stop here for now.
Whatever the Serie A Femminile panorama looks like by the time the new season kicks off, Pomigliano are relying on Banusic finding her goalscoring boots to help them beat the drop and become one of the elite, professional, top-flight clubs by the time 2022 is upon us. Good luck, Marija!