We return to Singapore next in our Till I Die series, where we speak to life-long “Milanista”, Javier (J). The self-proclaimed sports junkie also follows other major sports like basketball, tennis and Formula One, but AC Milan is his one true love.
FF Titan: Share with us how long you have been supporting AC Milan and why you chose this team above others, especially since Premier League teams are more popular here in the region.
J: My first exposure to football began from watching the 1982 World Cup with my uncles and Brazilian superstar Zico was my first football idol. Thereafter, I started following Serie A to get regular footage of Zico playing with Udinese. The appeal of the league soon grew on me, as all the best players in the world at that time played in Italy. To name a few, you have Maradona (Napoli), Zico (Udinese), Platini (Juventus), Falcao (Roma), Rummenigge (Inter).
Initially I was simply watching Serie A footages and enjoying the skills on display by those superstars. I never thought of supporting a particular team. But that all changed when Arrigo Sacchi was appointed as Milan’s coach. Sacchi ditched the traditional 5-3-2 formation with man-marking tactics used by Italian teams by adoping a 4-4-2 zonal marking tactics with a high defensive line. He also demanded compact pressing from his players when playing without the ball to suffocate the opponents, and to play a fast fluid attacking game when possession was regained. Sacchi’s style was considered a revolution in Italy and that Milan team with the 3 Dutchmen (Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard) played an attractive brand of football which converted me (as well as many neutrals) to a Milanista.
FF Titan: It has been a tough few years for AC Milan – what do you think are the issues with the club at the moment?
J: It’s a mess and I don’t know where to start. The decline started in 2012 when Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were both sold to PSG. With the club making annual losses, the deficits were covered out of Silvio Berlusconi’s own pockets. This led to budget signings for mediocre players and undeserved contract extensions for under-performing veterans since Berlusconi no longer wanted to draw out his checkbook like before. A football club can never achieve success and fight for silverware without talent.
There are also constant coaching changes since Allegri left. Seedorf, Inzaghi, Mihajlovic all stayed no longer than a year as coach so there is this lack of continuity from a coaching standpoint in the dressing room. Berlusconi doesn’t have patience with coaches and likes to interfere too much into lineups and tactics, where he should just let the coach handle the job. Behind the scenes, there are also internal conflicts between Galliani and Barbara (Berlusconi’s daughter) and political games within the club’s management.
Hopefully things will get better with new ownership, though there is already some public resentment as the new executive Marco Fassone has past connections with Inter.
FF Titan:How is the team looking this season?
J: It is a relatively young team there are some promising youngsters like Donnarumma, Calabria, Romagnoli and Locatelli who should be given playing time to develop. There is also a new coach in Vincenzo Montella who has shown during his coaching stint with Fiorentina that he is someone who does not play with a fixed system and is not afraid of adjusting his tactics based on players or game situations.
Given what has happened to the past few coaches, the management and fans have to be patient with Montella. I believe with the right mix of players, he can get the team to play a brand of football which the fans will like. Funds are expected to be injected during the winter transfer window by the new owners, so hopefully there can be some decent signings to improve the squad.
FF Titan: Given Juventus’ dominance, how long do you think AC Milan will need to challenge for Serie A again?
J: Realistically speaking, I don’t it think it will happen in the next 3 years. To challenge for silverware, a team needs talent. Big name superstars will not sign for Milan unless the squad is competitive and qualifies for European football, especially the Champion’s League. While you need better players to get the team better, the team also needs to get better to attract better big name players. It’s a chicken and egg thing.
FF Titan: Share with us your most memorable moment following AC Milan?
J: There were plenty. Sacchi’s Milan beating a Real Madrid team which won 5 straight championships 5-0, Capello’s Milan defeating the Dream Team Barcelona with Romario, Stoichkov, Koeman, Guardiola et al 4-0 in the 1994 Champion’s League final, the infamous “tennis” (6-0) derby with Milan being the “away” team, winning the derby 3-2 with a late goal from Seedorf after being 2-0 down at halftime… But if I can only pick one, it would be making the trip to Athens and seeing Maldini lifting the Champion’s League in 2007, especially after what happened in Istanbul in 2005.
FF Titan: Lastly, can you share with us if there are any AC Milan fan clubs here in Asia, if so, how can anyone reach out?
J: Yes. We have a local supporters’ club called Milan Club Singapore where there are about 60 over members. At the moment it is still unofficial, though the ultimate goal is to become an accredited club once the finer details like organisational structure and membership figures are sorted out. We have met up with Adil Rami (who has since left Milan for Sevilla) last year at his hotel when he was in Singapore on holiday.
The support for Milan is massive in Indonesia and we have a pretty close relationship with Milanisti Indonesia (The official Milan fan club in Jakarta). Whenever the Indonesian fans are in town, we will show them around and bring them for “makan” (food) sessions. There is also an official fan club in Japan called AC Milan Club Japan, and a Hong Kong fan club (Hong Kong AC Milan Fan Club) which we hope to establish relationships in future.
All the fan clubs mentioned above have their own Facebook page, so interested parties can always reach out via Facebook or visit their websites.
All pictures are reproduced with permission.
Editor’s Note: Fantasy Football Titan is looking for more fans out there who supports the smaller teams in the Premier League. If you are keen to be interviewed by us, do contact us via our social media platforms.
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