Women’s football in Naples now has a distinctly Antipodean flavor with three Australians seeking to keep newly promoted SSD Napoli Femminile in the Italian top flight.
Napoli joined Serie A this season after winning Serie B and the club signed three Aussies in Alexandra Huynh, Jacynta Galabadaarachchi and Isobel Dalton to help them avoid the drop.
Huynh is the most recent recruit, arriving in Campania from Western Sydney Wanderers a fortnight ago.
The W-League veteran is hoping to hone her skills in the pressure-cooker of Italian football and then push for a spot in the Matildas.
She says having Young Matildas striker Galabadaarachchi and former Brisbane Roar midfielder Isobel Dalton as her new teammates has made her transition easier.
“We’re just kind of making our mark over here,” Huynh told The World Game.
“Izzy Dalton has been here since day one in pre-season. She left the Roar halfway through the W-League season to go to Glasgow, then Covid hit, and after that she made the move to Napoli.
“We’ve also got Jacynta who just moved over from West Ham. They’re quality, quality players who are stepping up and trying to adjust, and doing what they need to do to get on the field, which is exciting.
“I actually went to college with Izzy, so I’ve known her for years and years. Jacynta I just knew of her, as the football community in Australia is so small. But they’re both lovely girls.
“As soon as I came here I just gravitated towards them as they're familiar company. It’s been amazing having that support system here.”
Huynh played in the W-League for the Wanderers and Newcastle Jets. The defender, who is waiting for her international clearance to come through so she can make her debut for Napoli, admits she is still get used to Neapolitan life and the rigours of the Italian game.
“Naples is different,” the 26-year-old said.
“I’d been to Italy before but had never been to Naples, so when I got here it was a bit of a shock. Just because everyone is crazy. There are no rules, it’s just anarchy.
“There’s no social rules, people just do what they want. But everyone has been so welcoming and so nice, it’s been pretty easy to adjust.
“The standard of football is so different to Australia. Every player here, everyone’s touch is so silky and it’s a lot more physical here in the sense that people are so passionate.
“People go studs up in training – that’s normal. In terms of overall, I think Australia has a lot more build-up play. In terms of structure there’s a little bit more foundation, here you play what you see.
“Here the girls are more naturally in tune with the ball – it’s so much faster here. It’s just different. The girls are just so passionate here. They eat football and breathe it.
“Even though it’s an amateur league, everyone gets put up in housing. No one works. So in that sense they have more time to think about football. Everything revolves around training, so it’s different to my time in the W-League and in America.”
Huynh came through at Marconi and debuted in the W-League with Newcastle in 2011 as a 17-year-old. The centre back spent several years playing in America for the University of Colorado and Troy University, in between seasons with Western Sydney.
This year the lure of playing in Europe, and in turn pushing for national team selection, was too great to turn down.
“I was planning on playing on one more season in the W-League and then heading to Europe,” Huynh explained.
“I got a call from one of the girls’ agents saying Napoli need a centre back, would you be willing to come. I was in talks with Wanderers, but I wasn’t sure as everybody was leaving the league.
“So I just wanted to weigh up my options and consider everything, and then I got a call and everything just fit into place. Two weeks later I signed a contract and came over here. I just thought if not now, when.
“Adapting to a new style has been challenging, but it’s only going to make me a better player… Every footballer wants to play for their national team. But in order to do that you have to step out of your comfort zone. That is a goal I want to achieve.
“Playing in Europe was the best thing I could do for my football and as a person. Obviously who doesn’t want to play in a home World Cup in front of your family and friends? If I can do that, that would be amazing.”
After six rounds of the 2020-2021 season Napoli are bottom of the league with just one draw from six matches. On Saturday they went down 1-0 to Empoli Ladies.
Huynh knows the Azzure have a fight on their hands to beat relegation but with a team full of international players, including Swedish, Greek, Colombian, Estonian, Guatemalan and Italian national team representatives, is confident they have the talent required.
“It’s pretty tense right now,” she said.
“I’ve come into a time when it’s very stressful, tensions are high, everyone wants to play and win. So that’s been pretty rough, but it’s been good.”