Panico aims to break barriers as first female coach of male national team

Patrizia Panico hopes she can help break through some barriers when she sits on the bench for Italy's under-16s against Germany in a friendly in Verona next week.

Italy's all-time leading goal scorer becomes the first female coach to hold such a prestigious role, but she is optimistic it will not be a novelty to see women in such positions in future.

"I think we still have to knock down plenty more walls and this is a decision which could help make them fall down," Panico, who was the Serie A top goal scorer a record 12 times, in addition to being Italy's most-capped player with 204 appearances and leading goal scorer with 110, said.

"To be the first female on the bench of a men's national team is certainly a great achievement and I like to think that my first time could also represent the first time for any of my colleagues. This is just the beginning, not the point of arrival.

"I've never received so many calls, not even when I played the semifinal of the Champions League. The most gratifying part about it all is really the thought that this is just the beginning.

"I never differentiated between the gender of any of the coaches I had in my career and I don't think there should be any difference. All that mattered to me was that the coach was competent no matter what their gender, and I'm delighted to have people around me like Zoratto."

Panico, who scored over 700 career goals, was appointed as assistant coach to Daniele Zoratto last year, but he informed her that he will be absent next week as he instead assists with Italy's U19s in their European Championship elite round fixtures, placing her in sole command.

"I didn't have any idea that he was not going to be here, but I think it's a good thing considering I'm his assistant," Panico said. "He told me the news in person and I cannot tell you what the first word I said was."

Panico, 42, ended her playing career just a year ago, and will begin her new career in charge of back-to-back fixtures with Germany next week.

"I've always worn a tracksuit up to now, but I'll put on a suit next Wednesday and, who knows, maybe I'll wear high heels -- at least that way it will feel like I am still wearing studs," Panico said.