My experience with 5/7/9-Man Football in Italy

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My experience with 5/7/9-Man Football in Italy

Postby cren22 » Thu Apr 23, 2020 2:45 am

I'm recently back in the U.S. from living and coaching football in Italy. I was supposed to be there through July but the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus. We had a very comprehensive program with teams at all levels. I was coaching the Division 1 adult team but also had coaching responsibilities involving working with the Division 3 adult team (9-man) whose season ran concurrently with the D1 team and the U-19 (9-man), U-16 (7-man) and U-13 (5-man) athletes on a limited basis as they play in the fall or winter but practice year round. Practice is typically 3 days a week for Division 1 teams and 1-2 days a week for anything below that. No film or meeting times even for the top level guys because they're all working or in school.

In Italy only the first two divisions of the adult league play 11-man football. A total of 29 teams (9 D1, 20 D2) play 11-man versus 41 D3 (9-man) teams. 9-man is played on a regulation field (though that's a VERY loose term in Italy). 7-man has the field width reduced to 40-yards but length stays the same and 5-man is played on a (I think) 50x25 yard field.

9-man is popular because there's a lack of linemen in Italy so you still get all your skill guys but don't have to worry about finding more than 3 OL. No scholastic sports to speak of in Italy either. All club-based. With very few exceptions no one but the Americans are paid and most Italians pay between 300-500 Euros a year to play. Unless an athlete moves away in a non-revenue sport like football they generally play for the same program their whole sporting careers. We had 8 year old kids on our flag team and guys in their mid-40s on our adult teams. Football is still a very fledgling sport in Italy and most of the teams are concentrated in the northern (wealthier) part of the country. In Rome, a city of 4 million, there is 1 Division 1 team, 4 Division 3 teams, 1 U-19 team, 0 U-16 teams and 2 U-13 teams

Anyway, the reason why I'm posting this on a sixman board is twofold: Firstly I had some limited experience with six man at the end of high school and it definitely helped me in Italy. The second is that I'm definitely planning on returning to Italy when things get back to normal and making a pitch to the Italian federation that they switch to six-man football for both the U-13 and U-16 levels rather than use two versions of the game that aren't played at all in America. This will align them more closely with the way the game is played over here along with allowing them to use NFHS rules.

Here's 5-man U13 Italian football in Rome for the curious:

And here's the 7-man U16 Championship in Milan:
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