Asia 'should tap into foreign talent'
Italian legend Franco Baresi says the rest of Asia should follow Japan's example and open up their game more to foreign players and coaches to help them tap the region's riches.
'Asia has many opportunities to become a big power,' said Baresi, who was in Hong Kong yesterday to launch AC Milan Soccer Schools.
'Perhaps they have to follow the example of Japan, which opened up more to foreign players and managers. The coach of Japan is an Italian [former Milan coach Alberto Zaccheroni] and probably foreigners bring a new mentality.
'It's also very important to improve the quality of the national leagues, perhaps by bringing in more foreigners, to be more competitive at international level,' said the 51-year-old former defender, who won three European Cups and six Series A in leading Milan's all-conquering team of the late 1980s and early '90s.
Baresi, who urged Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to keep faith with his former teammate Carlo Ancelotti as manager, denied Italian football was in trouble after Milan and rivals Inter failed to make an impact in the Champions League.
'Last year we won the Champions League with Inter, and sometimes it depends on the period in which matches happen. AC Milan were unlucky against Tottenham, but Italian teams at European level are still as competitive as other clubs.'
Milan join Barcelona, Chelsea and Arsenal in having a school in Hong Kong. The club is also forming schools in Macau and Guangdong.
'Asia is the greatest market in the world and we as an international brand have to move to China,' said Michele Ferraris, the head of AC Milan Soccer Schools. 'We opened a school in Japan in March and now we're in Hong Kong ... and we aim to develop a lot of programmes to [build] our fan base in Asia.'
The cost to attend the school is HK$10,000 for 50 training sessions, including kit.
Phillipe Bru, of Football for Life, the company organising the schools, stressed that 10 per cent of profits will go to charities and that under-privileged children in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong could also take part for free, with some being given the opportunity to visit Milan for training and tournaments. Coaching sessions will be held from September to June for children aged five to 18.