Aida Xhaxho: The Italian One
Fresh from the final of the #CoppaItalia, I caught up with the Italy and Lazio #14, Aida Xhaxho to find out a little more on her background and route into the sport of futsal. Whilst the defeat of Lazio by Kick Off [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teU2eQrsF_8] is only hours since, Aida is upbeat, charming and only too happy to help as we chat back and forth on the translations.
There is an intense-ness about her answers that delivers the same feelings as when you watch her perform but the message on fun and enjoyment is repetitive. It is clear to see that, whilst possessing what she classes as talent, Aida is humble and indeed her use of the word ‘lucky’ appears more than once…
TFI: Aida, for those who might not have seen a lot of women's futsal from Italy, can you give a very quick introduction to yourself, where are you from and the team you currently play for?
AX: Hi I am Aida Xhaxho, I was born in Albania and moved with my whole family to Italy at the age of 6. And from there I started kicking the ball, now playing with Lazio in Serie A.
TFI: Has it always been futsal for you, or did you have a relationship with football while growing up?
AX: I played football up to 18 years. I started with a men's team from my country and then at the age of 14 with Picenum, the women's Serie B team and then at the age of 17 I did a Serie A year with Imolese in Bologna. I was in the national team of u17 football but then at 18, the president of a futsal team in Serie A called me and I decided to change.
TFI: Was it normal to play, is there a culture of the game for both women and men and have there been challenges you faced along the way?
AX: I was very lucky, I had my parents who supported my every choice and passion and they were and are my first fans, thanks also to my two brothers who always made me play with them and their friends at the pitch near their home. But the challenges have always been there, the women's movement has always been seen as a minor sport. In recent years there has been a great revolution
TFI: What things do you see now that are changing, that you didn’t see before?
AX: Much more visible in the media! For football, men’s clubs have been given the obligation to also have women’s teams and for futsal I think it’s spectacular and gives deserved visibility.
TFI: And did you play at school, in organized clubs or just socially with friends?
AX: Started everything with friends, then at school, while my friends played volleyball I was always playing football with my teammates. I was very lucky to have talent, and this meant that they accepted me and picked me as the first choice in the teams.
TFI: What does the path look like for girls in Italy who want to play for Lazio or even for the national team, is there a plan in place for this?
AX: The path is easy, you have to believe in your passion, train with enthusiasm and have fun. We must never forget that we are privileged, we are paid to play. It is everyone's dream and with so much dedication and commitment it can be achieved.
TFI: Can you explain how / why you switched from football to futsal and if it was a choice you planned?
AX: It was a choice made by me, I cannot deny that at the age of 18 the financial offer that was made to me helped me in the decision. Before I lived only for football, and then slowly I started to love Futsal insanely. Sports that are very different but also very similar, complementary.
TFI: How would you describe the differences from Italian football to futsal, based on your experiences?
AX: When I made the decision to change from football, it was going through a dark period and I saw futsal as the future. And for many years it was like this, but now, I see that football has come out of the tunnel and is taking on a great light thanks to the men's teams that have also invested in women. I am happy with this and I hope there is even greater growth for futsal.
TFI: As one of the players who gets to wear the Italian blue shirt, does it give you a sense of responsibility as the women's game grows and, if so, how does it affect you?
AX: I particularly care about the blue shirt; every time I sing the Italian national anthem I feel responsible for all the girls who would like to be in my place and sing those words. It always loads me a lot and helps me in my performances, it gives me strength in my legs!!! It is an emotion that I wish all the talented players to live at least once in their career.
TFI: Finally, Aida, if you could send a message to the girls, or even to the boys, who aspire to become players for the best clubs and their country, what would it be?
AX: I would like to pass on my experience, I could never have imagined doing it as a profession, maybe because I never thought about it. I have fun playing, I do it as a passion and with passion. I suggest to all the girls, and I tell the boys I coach, that you always have to do your best to have fun. As sports people we live on adrenaline. Sport teaches lessons, so we always have to give our commitment in return for the luck we had. Any sport you do, you have to do it with love, having fun and entertaining those who are there supporting you, who watch you on TV, who would like to be in your place. We have to teach kids that everything is achievable if you really believe it!
TFI: Where can people watch you in action?
AX: 😊 I have fun and keep in touch with my followers. I update the various games and my daily life on social media. They can follow me on my Instagram page @Aidaxhaxho14 I try to involve them and respond to each of them. Thanks for the interview !!
Thank you to Aida from myself and on behalf on TFI, be sure to follow her on social media and check out some Italian futsal by following PMGSport Futsal on Facebook. The weekend’s #CoppaItalia games are visible on the PMGSport YouTube page where you can see Aida playing a vital role in all three games including the winning penalty at the QF stage.