Defending Euro Champion Team Italy is led by experienced manager Enrico Obletter, who was born in Sydney, Australia in 1959. He is the proud son of an Italian father and a Hungarian mother. Obletter is the manager of both the Olympic Team and the U19 Juniors. He and his team of talented players are currently hosting, as the defending champions, the 2017 Euro Women’s Softball Championship in Bollate (Milan), where 23 countries are competing in a single round-robin tournament to determine the next European champion on July 1, 2017.
To assemble this year’s main squad, Team Italy manager Enrico Obletter revealed his recruiting method. He says that all the players from Team Italy are chosen from clubs that participate in the Italian Softball League (ISL), the top softball competition in Italy. There are 14 clubs, and it is open to all players 15 and older. Some of the most experienced players are women over 40.
On the other hand, the U19 Team Italy players, although still young, are also very experienced. They play against foreign players, often professionals coming from all over the world. This is an advantage that they have over other teams. The squad also has some players from American colleges and high schools who enrich Team Italy with their talent.
Obletter has a love and passion for many sports, but found baseball and softball later in life. He grew up playing rugby, cricket and tennis in Australia. He also swam competitively for his alma mater, St. Mary's Cathedral College in Sydney. Softball and baseball were only a pastime, as in the 1960s only women's softball was popular in Australia. His first exposure to the game took place there. At age 16 Obletter returned to Italy with his family and began to play soccer professionally. After three years, he tired of a game that ended up in too many draws so he turned to baseball. He played professionally as a pitcher and outfielder for many clubs in Italy. Since he knew how to pitch in softball, he was asked to train women to pitch. When he eventually retired from playing pro at age 30, he continued his softball career as a coach for Team Italy in 1991.
Manager Obletter has had tremendous success coaching Women’s Softball in Italy. He led Team Italy to four European Championships and a fifth-place finish in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. He also served as of head coach of several teams in the ISL, which have won nine national championships and six European Cups. Since 2015 he has been the head coach of the Bussolengo Softball Club, the defending national champions. From Bussolengo, 12 players were chosen to represent Italy at the 2017 European Championship. Obletter gives credit to two main sponsors who have helped women’s softball in Italy: his club’s main sponsor, Specchiasol, a very important company that produces among other things bio and organic foods, medicine and cosmetics, and Mizuno, the main technical supplier for Team Italy.
Team Italy manager Obletter expressed optimism about how the U19 squad will compete in the 12th WBSC Junior Women’s Softball Championship in Clearwater, Florida from July 24-30, 2017. Enrico concluded, “I believe we will do well in Florida. Japan (ranked #1) and USA (ranked #2) will be the teams to beat in Clearwater. They have dominated in recent editions of the world championship and will continue for some time. Their greatest advantage is that softball is a main sport, and those countries get to choose from hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of softball players. There are only 5,000 women that play softball in Italy. You have more than double that amount in the county of Los Angeles alone. Italian women prefer to play volleyball and water polo. Italy has often become world champions and Olympic champions in those sports. We have to be content with our results.”
Despite losing athletes to more popular sports in Italy and not having an enormous pool of talent to choose from like heavy favorites Japan, USA, Canada (ranked #3) and Australia (ranked #4), manager Obletter believes Team Italy (ranked #12) can shock the world in the 2017 WBSC Junior Women’s Softball Championship and the 2020 Olympics. The proud Team Italy skipper said, “We make small sports miracles when we can field a competitive team at world championships.” Forza Italia!
by Roberto Angotti