‘We are keen to spread the message of football in India’

“Inter’s commitment to India has significantly gone up with the Inter academy coming to India. For Inter, starting an academy in a new country is not an easy decision. Inter has always had a strong youth programme in Italy. We extended this programme to USA and Japan only because we believed in the abilities of the youth in these countries to perform at the highest level,” says Marco Monti, Technical Director of Inter Milan, in this interaction with Ayon Sengupta.

Italian football powerhouse Inter Milan is slated to open its youth academy in Hosur in the last week of May. At the academy, hosted by Mathagondapalli Model School, a rural institute for community education, there will be, initially, about 100 trainees in the age group of 7 to 17. Inter President Erick Thohir and skipper Javier Zanetti are expected to be present during the launch of the academy.

The club’s Technical Director Marco Monti, who is in India to conduct football clinics in Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram and spot talents for the academy, spoke to Sportstar about the club’s future plans in India, Italian football and Brazil 2014.

Why did Inter Milan decide to open its academy in Hosur in Tamil Nadu (near Bangalore) and not in the traditional football centres of India?

Answer: The academy being at Hosur is ideally located to cater to the needs of talent in the vicinity. We have observed people here to be very passionate in supporting their teams and their sports. We are keen to spread the message of football in India.

You had featured in ‘Football’s Next Star’ television series. Can we expect Inter to come up with a similar programme in India?

The programme was a very interesting project where we got to work with a number of players across UK and Ireland. We were able to see not just the technical skills, but also the human and emotional aspects of the player. At the end of the show, the winner of the event won a six-month contract with our under-18 team. We hope to do a similar project in India because it gives us an opportunity to observe the player very closely before we make a commitment.

A lot of European clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal have grass root programmes in India. Bayern even played a friendly here. Do Inter, too, see India as a potentially lucrative market, given the country’s fast emerging financial clout?

Inter’s commitment to India has significantly gone up with the Inter academy coming to India. For Inter, starting an academy in a new country is not an easy decision. Inter has always had a strong youth programme in Italy. We extended this programme to USA and Japan only because we believed in the abilities of the youth in these countries to perform at the highest level. Today, Inter has a strong player in Nagatomo, who is from Japan, and has become part of the permanent starting line up of Inter. He has even worn the captain’s armband on occasions. Indian kids have the hunger and passion for the game, if guided properly they can be role models of the future. Inter will soon bring the team to play as well to give further impetus to the academy.

Under new coach Walter Mazzarri, Inter had a disappointing start to the season. As the Technical Director what do you think was the reason behind this slow start to the season?

Actually, we had a very strong start to the season. We may have lost some momentum in the middle of the season. However, I think we are in good position to make a strong finish to the season. We are confident we would play in the Europa League next year.

As you might be aware, Inter has won almost every possible title that a football club can win. This includes the treble we achieved in 2010 when we won the Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League. We have also won the FIFA Club World Cup in the same year. All clubs go through a cycle of re-building and we believe that we are in that process. We are confident of returning to the top in the near future.

Italian clubs, that once dominated the European scene, have failed to leave a mark in the continental competitions. Do you think Italian football is in decline and if yes what are the reasons for it?

Italian has always brought exciting football to the world. In Italy, football is more than a sport. It’s a way of life. Italian football showcases this passion and has always been a treat to follow for the ardent football lover. Italian clubs have done great. Inter won the treble in 2010. The competition is so tough at the top level we have space for everyone, We are going to come back strong and definitely Italian clubs are always there in the top — winning the World Cup in 2006 and a great performance in Euro 2012. We have many fans in India and we will do our best to popularise Italian football in India. Serie A was followed passionately in India between 1990-2005 and even today there are many followers of the Serie A. Broadcasters have shown more interest, in recent years, towards English football, however, we are going to be back strongly.

How will you rate Italy’s chances in this year’s FIFA World Cup and who are your favourites to lift the title in Brazil?

Brazil definitely is a strong contender and has the home advantage. Spain and Germany are also in a strong position to do well. Italy has consistently done well in the World Cup and can beat any team on its day.