Your 10 questions with Gianfranco Zola


  • Business
  • Saturday, 26 Feb 2011

Gianfranco Zola Ex-Chelsea football star answers ...

The game of football appears to be more about money and no longer about personal achievement, with Fernando Torres leaving for Chelsea and Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner saying the players deserve the huge amounts of money they are paid. Was this the case when you were playing and what has changed since? Jack Ho, KL

There is a vast difference between the game now and during my time. We played under different conditions, where the value of the players were determined by the market. Football now is heavily involved in media and has great commercial value, making it a highly commercialised sport, causing it to skyrocket in terms of dollar and cents. In my opinion, the spirit of the game itself is far more valuable and important than the money. The main drive for a footballer should be the sport and the competition, and the joy of the game. There are a few that are driven by monetary value, but majority of the players I know are in it for the love of the game. Money is not the main reason why footballers are footballers.

Will you be coming down to Malaysia anytime soon? Eric Sam, Banting

In fact, I was in Malaysia on Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb 22 and 23) in conjunction with the launch of the Heineken UEFA Champions League (UCL) Trophy Tour. Malaysia is the first stop in this four-nation Asian tour. The tour will begin on Feb 26 and 27 at Sunway Pyramid, Petaling Jaya, and will move up north to Gurney Plaza, Penang, on March 5 and 6. The final display is at the Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur, on March 11 and 12. It's going to be an unforgettable experience for football lovers. The important idea behind it is to promote football, to promote the UCL in a good way. So, do not miss this rare opportunity to get up close and personal with the revered trophy. In the football industry or any industry for that matter, you need passion to succeed. It is events such as this that promotes this passion, and such events need to be well accepted.

We have seen a lot of Asian players (Japanese and Koreans, in particular) breaking into the major European leagues. It is a trend that looks to continue in the near future. Do you think it's possible that Asians will one day become coaches in the major football leagues in Europe? Kelvin Jong, Kuching

I don't know the level of coaching the Asians go through before they're good enough to play for the European leagues, but they perform very well in the games. I see them coming into the European leagues in growing numbers as they have great quality and they all seem to possess a competitive edge. Hence, the reason why UEFA, together with Heineken, is bringing the UCL trophy to Asia again after four years. We see the passion for football growing rapidly in the region. For them to one day turn into coaches for major leagues in Europe is something I cannot comment on, as football coaching in Europe is a longtime football tradition with deep roots.

What were your regrets as a professional football player and what was your biggest achievement? Hasan Basri, KL

My only regret is not having played as well for the national team as I did for my football clubs. This could be because I was much more junior at that time, but it's the experience from being in the national team that had brought me to my peak. My biggest achievement is winning the Serie A title with Napoli, and my other valued achievement is winning the FA Cup for Chelsea.

If you could return to the past, what sports other than soccer would you love to excel in and why? Tabitha CC Boi, Penang

I have a deep passion for golf, which I have developed over the years. I started playing golf when I was playing for Chelsea and I think I would choose golf but only as an alternative to football. Football still remains my No.1 passion, even if I had the liberty to choose among many others.

How has playing soccer helped you to come out of certain unpleasant situations or habits? Bernard KH Lim, Penang

It has helped me in a big way. Sports in general is a discipline that can be applied in various levels of life. One can use the education and coaching that comes with being a sportsmen to make many things in life possible. It gives you the discipline and strength to deal with tough situations and to fight in a healthy manner to achieve a desired outcome. I personally inherited a lot from being a sportsman and from football itself. Through professional football, I have learnt to deal with opposing teams and the discipline behind each sportsman. It has been a life-coaching session for me.

Throughout your playing career, who was your favourite manager? Who was your favourite player at Chelsea? Chian Hao, Subang Jaya

Luckily, I had good managers all the way and each of them taught me everything I know about football. I have a great deal of respect for all of them.

While none was like the other, each has taught me a different set of skills. My favourite player while at Chelsea was my first partner as a striker, Mark Hughes, who is now manager of Fulham. We had great dynamics and we played very well together.

The overall quality of the 2010 South Africa World Cup finals was disappointing, especially the performance of the seeded teams with stars like Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney and others. Do you agree and why? David Tih, Malacca

I totally agree. It's because the majority of the teams played defensively.

They were too cautions and played mainly not to lose the games. Eight out of 10 teams were playing with 10 players behind the ball, and they were basically trying to close down the playing area. Conditions like these don't allow teams to play a good game.

How was it like playing alongside both Diego Maradona and Careca at Napoli (between 1989 and 1993)? Nicky Chan Kah Poh, Klang

I was a young player at that time and playing with them was my biggest inspiration to grow in the industry. The moments of playing with them changed my life as a footballer. They are two of the best players in the world and I wanted to learn from them. To have been given the opportunity was the best thing of my life.

What's your advice for a boy who dreams of playing professional football? Brandon, KL

Live your dream. If football is your passion, don't let anything stop you. Practise frequently and use the discipline you inherit from sports training to develop yourself at the same time This will give you all-round confidence, thus enabling you to come forth as a successful football player.

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