Euro 2022 winner Alessia Russo on making history, inspiring a generation and that viral backheel goal
by John Sartor
Alessia Russo, 21, has a game to match any sport – the backheel goal she scored in the final of the UEFA Under 17 European Championship in 2015.
Her goals are usually spectacular. Her backheel goal against Estonia in the European U17 Finals in 2015 is a highlight of many a sports-focused YouTube video.
As well as scoring her first professional goal for Arsenal, she’s become something of a global star, in part because of a viral backheel goal back home against the Dutch.
“I was really looking forward to the Dutch game as I knew they’d be a tough opponent,” says Italy Under-17 international Russo, who is set to earn her first professional call-up for the Under-20 World Cup this summer. “Coming into the competition, I knew I was going to need to prove myself.”
Russo finished the tournament with six goals in five games, including back-heel against the Netherlands, in the Italian Under-17s’ group stage.
There was a lot of support for the striker, who had started the tournament out in goal for Italy’s Under-17 team. “The supporters really seemed to enjoy watching me compete,” she says.
The winger’s goals were a major talking point, particularly in the run-up to the competition, after she was signed as a forward at the age of 12 by the Football Association of Italy.
“When I was on the training field with my teammates, people would come up to me and shout my name and tell me to keep on going,” says Russo. “And then the fans would come up to me and give me handshakes and say how proud they were of me and I was really appreciative of the gesture. I was one of them. I felt really, really special.”
So why was she so proud of herself?
“Because I knew I had already accomplished something,” she says. “I knew that I had