If there’s one person who is intimately familiar with what it means to be a woman making her way in a male-dominated field, it’s today’s guest, Manuela Nicolosi, an Italian international soccer referee, speaker, and entrepreneur.

Manuela is an undeniable trailblazer and has a series of barrier-breaking accomplishments to her name. Not only is she the first woman to referee a Men’s European Final (the Super Cup between Liverpool and Chelsea in 2019), but she is also the first Italian woman to referee the final of the Women’s World Cup.

In today’s conversation with Manuela, we talk about her journey as a soccer referee, her love of the game, and the challenges she’s faced while navigating a field dominated by men. We learn about the strict rules that governed Italian soccer when she was growing up, how this prevented women from becoming referees, and the change in regulation that took place when she was only 15, opening up new opportunities for women. Not only did this allow her to pursue her huge dream of making a name for herself in soccer, but it paved the way for her to inspire other young women to do the same through her work as a public speaker.

Tuning in you’ll learn about many of the skills you need to master as a top-level referee, such as being able to make quick decisions under pressure and remaining calm and balanced when players and fans are (sometimes aggressively and angrilly) challenging your decisions. We then go on to examine how these skills can translate to other leadership positions and why learning to accept your mistakes and take them in stride is such a game-changer. Today’s episode is deeply inspiring and a powerful reminder of what it means to follow your dreams, no matter the odds, so be sure to tune in!


Key Highlights From This Episode: 

  • Learing about our inspiring guest today: Manuela Nicolosi. [00:21]
  • Her strong relationship with her father, their shared love of soccer, why he objected to her playing professionally, and how he came to support her dream of refereeing at a high level.  [03:13]
  • Italy’s outdated rule that only men could be referees, and the Federation’s decision to open up opportunities to women. [05:41]
  • The tragic loss of her father when she was 16 years old and her desire to make her father proud through her work. [09:53]
  • Manuela’s experience of being the only woman in a male-dominated field, the challenges she has had to overcome, and how her dedication helped her persevere. [13:56]
  • What Manuela has learned about how to remain focused when she makes a mistake and what this can teach us about leadership. [19:24]
  • The resistance and active opposition you face from players and why it’s important to remain calm and firm in your decisions. [23:27]
  • The intense selection process to referee for the World Cup, what it was like for Manuela to referee the Finals, and the tremendous pressure she faced as a woman. [29:12]
  • The crowd’s beautiful reaction to seeing the first ever group of women refereeing a World Cup final. [36:05]
  • Find out about Manuela’s children’s book and what she has learned from her work as a speaker. [38:19]


For More Information: 

Manuela Nicolosi on LinkedIn
Manuela Nicolosi on Instagram

The Magic in You – Soccer Dreams with Sophia

Book Manuela to Speak


Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:  

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

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“I started playing [soccer] myself, but my dad said ‘It’s not something for girls. So I don’t want you to play soccer.’ He wanted me to do everything except soccer.” — [0:04:56]

“I was lucky because I [was] at the beginning. It was something new. People were supportive. Also in the local Federation, people were supportive. They helped me with many games. I always had someone coming with me and giving me advice.” — [0:11:49]

“I only had one goal, I was focused, I wanted to achieve always more and more and more.” — [0:15:11]

“When you referee you also need to learn [to say] ‘Okay, I made the mistake. I will think about that. I will analyze that later. But I need to continue running, continue be focused on the game because otherwise I will keep making errors.’” — [0:19:27]

“The crowd did a very beautiful thing. Normally when referees go out on the pitch, or are warming up before the game, they always whistle. [But] in this case, we went out and all of the stadium started clapping.” — [0:36:24] 

“I think we girls are afraid of competition. They are not taught that it’s good to be competitive. It’s good!” — [0:41:19]


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