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Seven questions from a youth soccer player.

I recently received these questions from a youth soccer player. He is a 13 year old boy who’s doing research. He was directed to me by his teacher who was a soccer student of mine. I thought that maybe parents and coaches, might find the questions and my answers interesting for their kids or players. By the way, if other kids would like to send me questions, please do so.

Q) How did you get involved with professional soccer?

When I was playing on a U17 team called Ausonia Grassi in Milano, we participated in a National Tournament with thousands of teams from all over Italy. We won the Tournament at the Milano stage, the regional stage and went to Rome with 3 other teams from the rest of Italy to play the semifinal and final. I was very lucky because we won both games and I scored 5 goals, in front of the talent scouts from all over Italy. After a few weeks A.C. Milan asked my team to have a try out with them. It went well!

Q) Where did you learn how to play professional soccer so well?

You don't learn to play 'professional' soccer. You learn to play........ soccer! So, like all the other professional players in the world, I learned by playing on the street for 4 hours a day, starting when I was 4 years old!!!!! At 6 years old my father began to train me. He played professionally before the war. At 10 I entered an amateur team and I began my improvement. When I entered A.C.Milan's youth team at 17, I improved but nothing compared to what I learned at 4/6 years old playing on the street!!!

Q) About how much money do/did you make a year playing soccer?

Try to understand this. There are many ways to pay a professional youth player. Please consider this. In the rest of the world, when you enter on a team, you sign a contract that ties you to the team for many years.
Basically you are 'property 'of the team. In the USA the parents pay to allow their sons and daughters to play soccer. In Italy, when you are with a top team, if you are not from the same city, you live and study at the expense of the team. This is the equivalent of many thousands of $$$$ a month. So the team invests money in you, raising you up and making you study, plus they teach you to play soccer.

About the money I made, that was a long time ago in a soccer era in which the players weren't paid like today so, I'll give you some of today's examples. Talking about USA on the MLS there is a salary cap so players can't be paid more than $400,000 a year. Nothing compared to the NBA or the NFL. The big money in soccer is made in Europe. Just being part of the 25/30 players of the roster of a top team, even if you never play a game during the season, the minimum that a player will make is close to 1 million dollars. If they play constantly they can make between 3 and 5 million a year. If they are the super-stars, they can even make 15/20 a year, including all the promotional advertising that they do for different sport brands or other products.

Q) How long do/did you play on a professional soccer team?

For A.C. Milan, when I was on the youth team, I played a little less than 2 years. After, I went into the Army. In Italy, 40 years ago, it was mandatory!!!! After the Army I played until 35 years old on different semi-professional soccer teams around Milano. So, I played from 6 until 35. That is 29 years. Professionally or semi, 15.

Q) I enjoy playing soccer but do/did you enjoy it even though you were playing professionally?

When you wear the jersey of your team and represent your city, the fact of being a professional means NOTHING!!!! No one in the world plays for the money!!!! Even the best like Ronaldinho, Rooney, Kaka or Ronaldo play only for the pleasure of playing. The amount of their contracts permits them to know how good they are! They are already really rich and don't need more money. To give you an American comparison, Shack makes 35 million a year playing basketball. Do you think that after all these years he still plays for the money? Of course not!!!!

Q) Do/did you ever get to overwhelmed when you were playing a game?

It's seems unbelievable but when the game begins, all the spectators disappear and you are totally focused on what you do. Even if you make mistakes and people boo you, you don't hear that, being totally involved in the evolution of the actions. The only 2 mistakes to absolutely not make are, don't go to collect the ball close to the spectators. Instead wait for the people who are there for this reason to send the ball back to you and, much more important, never, EVER, have eye contact with the spectators. If you do that, you'll be trapped in a probable argument and your concentration will be gone. But here, I'm talking about the highest level in the world so, let’s say that if you stay focused on the game it's like playing in the desert!

Q) Did you or your father ever get to play in the world cup?


But this is an honor that just a few players have had in their whole career. Just playing for the National team in international games is something unique. To play in the World Cup is something that just a few dozen players among thousands, or among millions, if you include all the ones that play to an acceptable level, can have. Having played for the youth team of A.C. Milan already makes me very proud.

I'd like to conclude this series of answers by underlining this aspect.

As a player I was a good one. But, I wasn't outstanding or unique. Except, in one aspect I can say that I was unique. I was, not only never expelled from the field after a red card, but I never even had a yellow card and I played center forward in Italy!!!

In this, I can say that I was UNIQUE and for me, this is a great achievement and I can challenge every top super star to be able to do something like this! Playing soccer for 29 years at a high level, without ever having a yellow card!

Hope that my answers satisfy your curiosity. If not, please ask me anything that could help you to better understand my answers.

As I said at the beginning, if youth players would like to ask questions, it would be a great pleasure to answer them.

Ciao Coach Gianni

Posted on 26 Jul 2007 by coachgianni
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