British pair Natasha Dowie and Christy Grimshaw are preparing for a big week with AC Milan in the club’s quest to win the first trophy in their history.
Milan, currently second in Serie A, take on league leaders Juventus on Sunday before taking on city rivals Inter Milan in the semi-finals of the Italian Cup on March 14.
Speaking to BBC Sport, the pair discussed life in Milan, Italian food, language barriers and their quest to hunt Juventus.
Pizza, pasta and Italian lessons
Former England striker Dowie has said it has been “an extraordinary experience” in Italy since joining from Melbourne Victory last summer, although he has not been able to fully explore Milan due to coronavirus restrictions.
“You have mountains, lakes, incredible food, fashion and a pretty special lifestyle,” he said.
“Everyone knows Italy has such good food. Sometimes it can be dangerous! Maybe not a bad thing that we have to endure this time?
“The pizza, pasta, the lifestyle and the passion they have for food here is really what I love. Food for me, apart from football, is my greatest love. I find it very special when you can share a meal with your family. and friends. Italians are doing very well – it’s a big event for them. “
Scottish midfielder Grimshaw has also made most of the Italian meal but is missing some of the comforts of home, having joined from French side Metz in July.
“The pre-match meal is always pasta but much better quality than pasta at home, as you can imagine!” Grimshaw said. “But fish and chips and Sunday dinner … I miss them so much.”
But while both enjoy the lifestyle, the language barrier is “very difficult,” said Dowie, who takes lessons given by the club twice a week.
“I’ve played in Norway and Sweden, but this is definitely the most challenging in terms of communication,” he said. “I try to think of it as a positive thing because you have to try harder to try to connect with the players and the staff.
“It’s difficult because a lot of Italian players want to learn English. Their English is better than my Italian so they tend to say it to me which means I can’t practice Italian much. It’s difficult but we can all try and I think the players do. Italy can see that. “
Grimshaw added: “Football is a kind of language in its own right. Off the pitch it is very difficult to try and make those connections. On the pitch we almost have a mutual understanding of the game.
“It’s a little difficult. But we’ll get there. We have Italian lessons and we try to make jokes. Italian girls all laugh at us!”
‘We live for the moment’
Only three points separate Milan and Juventus before this weekend’s game and Dowie hopes they can put pressure on the leaders, who have won three titles in a row.
“It is ‘six figures’ this weekend. We all know how important it is. Juventus don’t lose games. Winning is a habit and they are very good at it,” said Dowie.
“We have to win. They also have a better goal difference so hopefully they can slip up a bit for the rest of the season or we need to start scoring a few more goals.
“Then we face Inter Milan in the semifinals. It’s brilliant. It’s a derby and they are the ones you want to play.”
Milan, who formed their women’s team in 2018, have presented new challenges for Juventus, but Dowie said the league is now “very competitive” and “surprised me” as it prepares to become full professional next season.
Grimshaw said the Italian style of football had improved his game as he continued to seek a place in the Scottish national team.
“There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes before every game. We are very focused on the tactical side and the analysis. I need to add that to my game, so being here is great for me. I really enjoy it,” he added.
“Training was very good this week. We live for the moment. We hope to win our first trophy of the season.
“It’s going to get things mixed up [if we beat Juventus]. The more I do well and score – especially this weekend – other things will come as a result. “
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