"I want to make female American Football big"

in World · 03-09-2019 12:46:00 · 0 Comments

By Mirjam Collens

Ambra Marcucci left the Netherlands 6 years ago to study Psychology and Law in Portugal.
The now 27-year-old doctor and athlete didn’t sit still the past years. American Football and legal psychology bring out the "fighter for equality" in her. Ambra tells more about this from her hometown Porto.

Her dancing, blonde curls announce her arrival from far away. Sitting still is not in her nature, but Ambra wants to make an exception to tell her story. We agreed to meet in a cozy coffee bar in the city.

From Amsterdam, Italy to Porto

Her curls, the love of sports and willpower to want to belong to the top, runs in the family. Ambra’s father (with curls) is Italian and a former professional soccer player. He met her mother when she was studying Italian Language and Culture in Italy. Not one child came from it, but two at once. Together with her identical-looking twin sister Martika, Ambra was born in Amsterdam. As a child she lived in Italy for two years. When the family moved back to the Netherlands, Uden (a little city in the province of Noord?Brabant) became their home. At the age of 21, Ambra and her sister decided to push their boundaries beyond the Dutch life. Together they moved into an apartment in Porto center and they both went for their passion. This has brought Martika (now living in England) a career as a professional body builder and Ambra can now call herself a doctor and an American Football athlete. She is enormously grateful for the support from her personal "gym coach" and also love partner Yuran that she met in Porto: "Thanks to him, I am the athlete I am today".

"Blood, sweat and tears"

The past years, Ambra has not just been staring at the Douro with a glass of port in her hand. In fact, she doesn't drink alcohol. She never lost a moment to reach her goals and to keep her focus sharp. She started the second part of her Master’s in Psychology & Law in Porto and then her PhD in Applied Psychology, where she specialized in sexual crimes. She also worked part-time for an international company and as a freelance blogger. In the free time that remained, she was constantly active in the gym and as an American Football player.

She still does the latter with dedication while her increasing Instagram followers watch with admiration how she runs across the field like a madman during the practices of American Football, as if the video is speed up. She also challenges herself every day to bring her skills to higher levels by performing exceptionally fast exercises by herself. "If you want to excel, you have to do something that only a few others do."

Meanwhile she has her PhD in the pocket and resigned from her job, causing a burden to fall from her shoulders. Her relief is noticeable: "It has cost me blood, sweat and tears and sometimes I lost it a bit." But she continued to work, study and train hard. Where another respects her performance, she does not always understand why. "I am a Capricorn: never satisfied with myself and everything can always be better". Once she has something in her head, this has to be finished and she is grateful for that quality. "I just want to play on a high level, pushing my limits." Six of the seven weekdays she focuses on training, the seventh day she tries to force herself to rest. "But lying down on the bed on a Sunday and staring at the ceiling, I really can't," she laughs.

Legal psychology and American Football awakened something in her: a battle she fights for herself but also for equality of others.

Lonely wolf that gets its teeth into it

She started as a player in the Flag Football team of Porto Mutts, the only women's team in Portugal. "This is the softer version of American Football, where men and women are allowed to play mixed and where tackling is not allowed." However, in November 2018 the team members split up. A few of them intended to take over the management of Porto Mutts, which happened. This resulted in division and a break within the team. Ambra decided, along with the majority of the team, to remain loyal to her coach from whom she learned so much. Together they founded the first female American Football team in Portugal: Porto Dyrrs.

" A dyrr is a wolf who has voluntarily left a previous pack or has been forced by others to become a lonely wolf ".

Building this new club from scratch has not been for nothing. "We are being viewed internationally and are successful." Not only this team has come to the attention; Ambra herself has not been unnoticed either. She is visited worldwide via social media, has been approached for interviews and she has also been scouted internationally. In the meantime she is the only woman who also trains in the men's team of Paredes (30 minutes' drive from Porto): Paredes Lumberjacks.

"It could have been a first for Portugal"

When Ambra was asked to join the male team, she couldn’t say no. "It's great to train with men so that I can keep improving myself." She has also been asked by the national women's American Football team of Italy to play a game with them against Spain. Now she can call herself an official player of this team.

Unfortunately, the leadership of the FPFA (the Portuguese American Football Federation) rejected the request from the Lumberjacks to make Ambra part of their team as a player. It was a disappointment for the Paredes Lumberjacks. According to them it was not a good idea to have a woman play with and against men, and also there were no clear rules about it in the book. A missed opportunity, Ambra says: “This could have been a first. Besides, it’s my own responsibility that if I play in a male team, I will probably come home with bruises”. She continues, however, to train with this male team: "The federation has nothing to say about that". The responsible of the league is also one of the people in charge of the Mutts team. "How can such a person be impartial in this position if he/she simultaneously leads a team and possibly personal interests play a role?”, Ambra wonders. She believes that, as long as no one that is responsible for the league is open for it, a sport can never develop further. "The federation should want to help the players move forward". Not only the female but also Ambra’s teammates are supporting her. "Keep fighting for your rights", they tell me. And that motivates me to continue”.

Representing the role of women in this world

Why she chose to study the legal side of psychology? “My former supervisor was involved in this subject and it caught my interest. It is a hot topic”. With her specialization in sex crimes, Ambra again encounters the inequal role of women in this world compared to men. It seems to be a red thread running through her life and she wants to do something with it: "I want to give women a voice".

A number of male (mainly international) athletes who play for local Portuguese American Football teams are paid to play matches. This is in contrast to a woman like Ambra, while she will play competitions at a higher level for the national team of Italy. This is one of the examples that Ambra mentions to show that men and women are treated differently. “It always comes back to inequality. Why don't we get the same rights as an athlete as men? "

"Keep showing what you are good at"

Ambra will not give up the battle to grow as a female athlete. She has great plans and goals for the future. Among other things, she would love to go to America. A logical step for her because of her passion. Ambra wants to gain work experience in psychology and continue playing American Football. The biggest challenge now is to be accepted there as an European citizen.

In addition to training, Ambra will also focus on starting her own business, where she can apply her skills and experiences. "I want to make American Football great for women." She and her boyfriend will face the challenges together, in whatever country it will be. Meanwhile Ambra is surrounded by her equally enterprising parents in Porto: they will open a Bed & Breakfast in this bustling city, where Ambra will lend a hand. Her parents are buzzing with ideas to offer tourists more than just an accommodation. Something common in the family, to conclude with Ambra's motivation: “Keep believing in yourself and keep showing what you are good at. Not only virtualization but also hard work”.

Follow Ambra on Instagram (ambramarcucci): https://www.instagram.com/p/Bwos9lvnHVT/

Pictures by Angelo Ciani, Line Up Network and Mirjam Collens


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