December 20, 2011, Winter’s Eve in Coverciano. Roberto Baggio, FIFA’s chief technical officer, puts on the table an 890-page document to revolutionize talent growth in Italy. Future Renewal, the ambitious nickname chosen by those summoned to rethink the football movement after the collapse of Lippi II in South Africa (the latter in a tin group made up of New Zealand, Paraguay and Slovakia). So he remembers that day his historic director, Vittorio Petroni, who also joined the previous Ballon d’Or in this adventure as a member of the artistic sector and coordinator of youth football development: “We have requested an important investment in nursery culture, to instill values and ethics in all stages of the growth process, ”From the age of 10 to the spring youth. But also to standardize the training of technicians, who are often neglected and entrusted to individual initiatives. For young people, hundreds of kilometers from their families, trainers are points of reference and must first and foremost play the role of educators.”
On that occasion, he lacked the courage to make a radical choice in foster homes (shortly after Baggio left office), but at the same time, Cesar Prandelli’s simultaneous arrival at the national bench inaugurated an administration of blue based on values of justice and legality (Code of Ethics for Football Players Foot, training in fields confiscated from Ndrangheta, visiting Auschwitz or summoning Simon Farina after reporting a football betting case). A furrow was also followed by current coach Roberto Mancini, with a choice to take the field in Bergamo who had contracted a covid or visits to children in the hospital in Rome. In general, it appears that the football world is increasingly aware of their role off the field. And not just to participate in the initiatives promoted by the CSR clubs involved. Symbolically, out of bounds, is the case of Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United striker, who argued fiercely during the lockdown with Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the need for meal vouchers to be distributed to underprivileged children.
Can a similar situation be imagined in Italy? “I don’t know, footballers generally tend to avoid terrain that can create tensions with society,” says Alessandro Spani, the former Reggiana captain who caused a sensation that he abandoned the sport at only 26 years of age preferring to complete his course at Hult International Business School. in England. “I think it is appropriate to discuss the matter with the manager of social media in charge of this at the club. However, at certain moments, it is necessary to take responsibility. On the occasion of the release of Silvia Romano and her conversion to Islam, it occurred to me that I remember on Instagram my experience as a volunteer in Africa, and imagine myself kidnapped first, dead and then returning to Italy in a coffin, for the sake of a political choice. Do not pay the ransom. I did not ask permission before writing it. I felt the need to take a stand and I did. ”
For many years, we have focused on what follows, on how to prepare players once competitive activity ends, neglecting the former, how to reach professionalism, and how this transition should be managed in an era so sensitive to outside calls. Not forgetting that not everyone will reach that moment.
Roberto Samden, Inter director of the youth sector, does not doubt that. “An important cultural change is taking place in the world of sports, which is not yet complete, after realizing that children attending the youth sectors are not so much the future of football as they represent the next ruling class in the country. This is why it is important that they have adequate training. Off the field is part of the training for us, it is nothing complementary. ”Valerio Ciati, 41, in charge of the Bologna School of Football for eight years, is keen to emphasize the evolution of the role of the educator:“ We have realized the importance of some details, such as the language that is not Verbal. The technician who puts his hands in his hair for a wrong pass sends a censorship message even without shouting. This does not mean that the error should not be corrected, but it is better to do so with the phrase: “Well, I tried, also think about the other option that was from You can do it. ”It is a gradual management of pressure, leaving the child’s desire to play intact, and then offering more responsibilities along the way. A path that requires parental cooperation:“ Parents, who remain the most important reference point for young athletes, must be involved in not being charged. Their son or daughter fulfills expectations The returning child from the game should be asked: “So, did you win today?” Rather, “Did you enjoy?”, “Was it a great day?”, And then, only after that, “And how did the game go? “”.
An important role for community and parent communication is the role that Enrico Costi played in Sassuolo for seven years, who is in charge of the forty youngsters staying at Neroverde Boarding School (for example, Claude Adjapong, Martin Erlic and Nicholas Pierini passed through those rooms). “The good fortune of living in a city of forty thousand people allowed me to build a relationship with all the schools in the area. If one of our children encounters some difficulties between the offices, I speak to the professors, and of course to the family, to think together about how to recover. Boarding school rules are few but very clear. Respect for everyone in the club, from the coach to the chef. Until last year, before Covid, we had also given small symbolic fines, a few euros, for inattention, an uncleaned table or an unmade bed. Gruzzoletto that at the end of the year we donated to local associations. ‘
Jonathan Binotto, 120 Serie A matches, asks the boys he coaches on the Under-15 team for SPAL for their mid-year report cards. “As a club, we are very interested in the school, we have also given tribute to the boy who better combines commitment to sport and school. If someone happened to be short of recovery, I come to see them, give them time to get back on track, and temporarily relieve them from one of their weekly training sessions. “School comes first: not everyone will penetrate football, while it is possible that they will include the future doctors who will treat us, the engineers who will build our homes or the teachers who will take care of our grandchildren.”
In Fiorentina, where Vincenzo Virgin took a leave of absence after 14 years leading the youth sector, they are particularly proud of the boarding high school, born in 2012, which also targets non-members of the club. “The thing that makes us proud,” they say, “is that we were among the first to promote the personality of a sports teacher, now not only is it recognized in Europe, but mandatory in all Italian professional sports clubs. The teachers combine skills with passion, and reinforce in our athletes not Only knowledge but a “desire to know.” An education that makes them more men than players. Together with Juventus Football Club, we were also the first to fight for the “right to study” for high-level student-athletes, and advocates of legislation 279-18 allowing for recognition. They are referred to as justified absences, for example, due to competitive obligations. “
In terms of the training process, the importance of subsidiaries of major clubs increases, allowing young promises to become softer, explained Luigi Lardone, president of Osteamari, the company in which Daniele De Rossi grew up, and who has been linked since this year to Fiorentina specifically. . “We were looking for a first-class club that would allow us to be a branch where we could grow local horizons here without the trauma of moving at 13 or 14. Today, young people are much more fragile in character than they were a few decades ago, which is why we prefer to avoid Early separation from family, while still ensuring a high standard of teaching. To take an academic example, even if the title is the same, being a Harvard law graduate is not the same as at Tor Vergata. However, if I have the potential to train Tor teachers ”Vergata at Harvard or hosting American teachers in Italy, my title is also growing academically. Here, Rocco Comiso for us is Harvard.
The sensitive aspect is the use of social networks. All clubs have bylaws on correct use, and in a more or less obvious way, they all keep an eye on what young athletes post on Instagram, Tiktok or Facebook. Francesco Morara, the Bologna Under-15 coach, insists with the boys on a sense of belonging and responsibility: “The boys, despite their fourteen-year-old upbringing, must remember that they represent Bologna FC at every moment of their lives, not just on the field. … but also when they go out in the evening with friends, in school offices or, in fact, on social networks. ”“ One of the hottest stages is the post-match phase, ”adds Pierluigi Carta, Director of Sports and President of Cagliari’s Youth Football Sector. “The adrenaline of the just-ended race can lead to the publication of something inappropriate, so our concern is our utmost to avoid problems that could unleash the children or the image of the company. Even if they are young, they should never forget to represent a unique club that represents history and land. Even a people ».
A fairly frequent situation is that there are boys in youth squads especially cheering for a team in different colors than the ones they wear. “In these cases we invite you to postpone social activities. We are doing this in their interest, so that we do not have to backfire in a possible future career,” explains Annalisa Novembre, Inter Youth Sector Project Manager. An immediate nod to Sandro Tonale, for whom someone this summer remembered the anti-Inter posts written at the age of 12 when he appeared to be about to wear the Nerazzurri shirt. The Inter Education Project includes all young people in the youth sector, from the very young, under the age of 9, to those who, in the spring, begin to smell professionalism. “We hold meetings on issues such as racism, bullying and football betting, as well as sporting activities with less fortunate facts such as playing games with boys in Beccaria Juvenile Prison or organizing a children’s cancer tournament. Hospital presence seeks to ensure this with visits involving athletes of all formations, from the first team to the youngest and youngest. The teenager will never forget a volunteer experience with the hero who cheers him on Sunday next to him ». Growing up young Rashford. Could.