Two contrasting scenes played out this weekend, many miles apart but linked by a strong thread that runs between Asian and Italian football.
The first was in China, where Guangzhou Evergrande, coached by the Italian Marcello Lippi, seized the AFC Champions League. The second, was in San Siro, where Inter Milan followers made a big show of bidding a respectful farewell to Massimo Moratti, the club president for 18 years, who on Friday transferred a majority stake in the club to the Indonesian billionaire Erick Thohir.
Lippi enhanced his reputation as one of the great modern coaches. He is now unique for having won the main continental club title both in Europe and Asia. But amid the fanfare there has been criticism within China for the huge money spent on ambitious Ghuangzou. In Italy, the transfer of Inter’s main shareholding into foreign hands has been greeted in some quarters with a faintly protectionist concern.
Football exists in a global marketplace. Across Asia, greater capital resources are being plunged into the sport, from China’s backing of clubs to the Arabian Gulf’s hosting of major events to Thohir’s takeover of Inter. Italy should at least be proud Asia still prizes Italian human resources. From Lippi in China, to Alberto Zaccheroni, who led Japan to the 2011 Asian Cup, to Walter Zenga, at Al Jazira and Alessandro Del Piero, lighting up the Australian league, Italian expertise thrives across football’s eastern territories.
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