Posted: 6/18/2007


    Alfred Edwards had a dream in 1899 when the transplanted Englishman formed his cricket club, which also ran a football team, and in the next two years AC MILAN became champions of Italy for the first time.  The full name of the team is Associazone Calcio Milan, with the English spelling in honour of the founder.  Only during the facist time of Mussolini was the club, along with Genoa (Genova) and Inter Milan forced to use the Italian spelling.

    I had the privilege the other day to visit Milanello, the club's spacious training center, in the hills outside VARESE, just 50 kilometers north of Milano.  It was the dream of Andrea Rizzoli in 1963 to create this magnificient facility for one of Europe's top clubs.  In 160,000 square meters of pine woods and lakes there lies 6 full sized outdoor fields plus artificial fields, both indoor and outdoors.  The facility also includes a two story headquarter building with restaurants, locker rooms, weight rooms, medical facilies, meeting and press-rooms, as well as dorms for the younger players of the second team. There is also a special cage with backboards surrounding them to keep the ball always in play.  In 1986 the new president, Silvio Berlusconi, decided to update the Milanello to the very best it could be and since then the Rossoneri (red black) have rivaled any other club in Europe and the World. Berlusconi, of course, became the outstanding politician and prime minister of recent Italian history as well as a media magnate. There is no public transport to the site which is off limits to not only the public but also their opponents, and the media is restricted to limited access only for official press conferences.

   Legendary coaches in the past have included Gipo Viani, Nereo Rocco, Nils Liedholm, Arrigo Sachi, as well as Fabio Capello who have won championship after championship in the Serie A and European Cups, while Carlo Ancelotti took his current team to great heights in the Olympic Stadium in Athens last month to defeat the Mighty Reds of Liverpool, who had come from behind to beat them in Istanbul two years ago.  Me and my colleagues where shown around Milanello by Mr. Antore Peloso, the director.  One highlight was to sit at the players bar and taste the "necter of the gods" the best ice cream (GELATO)I have ever tasted, produced in the Milanello kitchens by one of the 14 full time staff members and many other seasonal employees that look after the needs of the players and grounds.  Current world stars include Pirlo, KaKa, Ronaldo, Gattuso, Maldini, Dida, Inzaghi,... but only one number is off limits and that is the number 6, which is retired in honour of Franco Baresi.

Past players  include Roberto Bagio, Rivaldo, Jimmy Greaves, Jose Altafini, Marcel Desailly, Jean-Pierre Papan, George Weah, Herman Crespè. Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Rua Costa, Andrei Shevchenko, Juam Sciaffino, Gunnar Nordhal, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger  to name a few.

   The following morning we managed to dodge the paparazzi outside the AC Milan club offices in the center of Milano to have a private viewing of the trophy room and the seven European Championship trophies plus 17 Serie A and Inter-Continental Trophies.  Later that afternoon we headed to the San Siro Stadium,(real name: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza,) after a former player of both Milanese clubs, which they share, to watch a friendly tournament between teams of employees of both clubs plus other teams which help sponsor the two Milan teams and the stadium.  My host Alessandro, the club Treasurer, took great pride in showing us both club's locker rooms and the recently renovated Rossoneri room which is much more spacious and better equipped than that of Inter Milan.