It has been more than four months since Alessandro Del Piero‘s last match for Juventus FC and only slightly less since that dreaded day when his contract with the club officially expired. ADP lives in Australia now. He’s taken his calcio trade to a distant land where the players aren’t as technically gifted and where soccer is still very much a developing sport. Yet Alessandro has chosen to embark on this new adventure and we must accept it, but for the very first time since leaving Italy, he’s decided to tell us a little bit more on what prompted his decision, as well as his first impressions with his team and in the land down under. Rest assured, it includes some nostalgic memories about Juventus!
Gazzetta dello Sport‘s GB Olivero was in Sydney to talk to the man, an interview fully translated below for your JuventiKnows viewing pleasure!
The Star. It could be this story’s title, the fate of a boy pleasantly “condemned” to be a football star, even on the other side of the globe. “The Star” is also the name of a large hotel in Sydney, the first Australian home of Alessandro Del Piero and where we are scheduled to meet him, at 14.30 of a beautiful sunny afternoon full of lights and colors. To talk about his great new adventure Ale has picked the spot where it first began.
Walking briskly towards us, he shouts an enthusiastic “good afternoon” (in English) from afar, orders a cappuccino and asks, “How did Juve play in Siena?”.
Ale, it’s been almost a month and the A-league has started. Are you still convinced you made the right choice?
“Extremely confident. A month still isn’t enough to make an assessment, but the beginning is comforting under every aspect.”
What are you looking for here that you haven’t yet found anywhere else?
“I did not come to Australia to seek but to live, to experience something different. I want to take every opportunity that this adventure will offer me.”
With all your money you could have sat back and enjoyed life… why a new challenge?
“First of all, the desire to play football. To do so here offers a thousands extra sources of motivation. Also it’s an added value with respect to my family, not only for the foreign language my wife and children will have to learn, but also because of the different rhythm and ways of doing things which I must deal with here in Sydney, a city ranked in the world’s top five in terms of quality of life. ”
Does one really feel this way on the other side of the globe?
“Yes, it’s something you understand through the journey and the timezone difference. Football, however, shortens distances: I still get stopped in the street by people asking me for a photo or an autograph, not just the Italians but also Asians or Europeans. There are even those who see me and say thank you, and I do not know why.”
Can we draw a more clearly defined outline around the project that made you accept Sydney FC’s offer?
“The first endeavors are still at the embryo stage. Football here has great potential, there are many enthusiasts: citizens of Italian, Greek, Croatian origin, on top of the Aussies. Our project will serve youth, charities, and the A-League in general.”
How many times have you been at the ‘Teatro Regio’ in Turin, and how many times do you plan to go to the Opera House?
“I’ve already been at the Opera House, but only… from the outside. At the Regio more than once. I have the impression that in this city I will be able to take walks serenely.”
Could you do without popularity? Or is that precisely something you want to get rid of?
“I don’t want to avoid it, it’s part of the job and it’s gratifying. I’m glad I found a situation where I can apparently choose and have both popularity and quiet.”
It’s likely your first Australian goal will be seen all over the world, because of your role as a football ambassador. How do you feel about that?
“It’s very intriguing. I am really pleased to have such as special following here. There are Chinese students who come to training, Asian fans that have alerted me of their arrival. A Sicilian girl, who had a dream to see me play in Turin but did not manage to do so, let me know on Twitter she will be coming here. I’m hugging the world: it’s a fantastic feeling.”
How did you tell Sonia?
“Step by step: I was constantly keeping her up to date. She always told me: “Pick a destination, and we’ll follow you.” I know that this is a challenging time for Sonia.”
What happened when your brother told you about Sydney FC’s offer?
“I didn’t answer, I just looked at him.”
In these two years will you be studying what you’re going to do when you grow up?
“I live fully in the present, but as I do so now I will widen my horizon towards the future.”
Some people think that Sydney was almost a fallback option…
“People can say that and everything, but I do not worry. I had ample opportunity to choose: America, Brazil, Thailand, Qatar, Spain, England, China, Japan. But I was not searching for the most economically-attractive destination. I have won everything you can win on the field: I did not need to play the Champions League one more time or anything like that.”
Why did you say no to Liverpool?
“Negotiations with Sydney FC were already at an advanced stage and then I thought about Heysel and what happened there. Juve and Liverpool have been able to reconstruct their relationship, but for many people that tragedy is an indelible memory.”
Do you have any concerns?
“Of course. They were born the moment I decided to come here. I am not accustomed to change and Australia isn’t exactly a stone’s throw from Italy. I started this adventure with a mixture of excitement and fear.”
Del Piero has been ‘reborn’ as a football player three times already: in 1994 (the first explosion to stardom), 1999 (the return from injury), and 2006 (Calciopoli). Is this Del Piero’s fourth life, or is it a turning point for Ale?
“It’s Del Piero’s fourth because I am here as a football player: to live and see football in a different context. But it is also certainly a new life for Alessandro. And Sonia, Tobias, Dorotea and Sasha.”
How many times did you hold back from telling someone off because “Del Piero is well-mannered, Del Piero is an example”?
“I’ve had to refrain myself a few times. If you have a role, you have to behave. I’ve always had this sense of responsibility. I told a few “vaffa”s too of course, but in private… not blatantly.”
Did you expect a higher technical level in the A-League?
“It’s too early to tell. On matchday #1 the teams that lost are those who tried to build and improve themselves, like Sydney FC, and those who won are those who ran more. There’s much balance here thanks to the salary cap however: any team can beat any other.”
Would Sydney FC be able to save themselves from relegation in Serie A?
“I don’t really know. It’s hard to make a comparison, here everything is different: life, environment, stadiums, away matches”. (traveling to Perth takes five hours by plane… something unheard of in Europe, even in the Champions League — Ed.)
How was your initiation rite in Sydney FC’s locker room?
“On the eve of my debut in Wellington, I had to sing in front of my teammates! I picked “Nel blu dipinto di blu” (Volare — Ed.), because Sydney FC are nicknamed the ‘Sky Blues’. And then I asked the whole team to accompany me. I sang “Volare” and they went “oh, oh”. If I have the courage, I’ll put the video on the Internet, provided one of my teammates doesn’t beat me to it…”
How is your English?
“I’d like to express myself better. I’m starting lessons next week. I’ve been busy with trying to find a home, with training and with other things so far.”
What’s the first thing that you learned in Sydney?
“The slow and relaxed pace of life, the friendliness of people here. Everyone is more smiling and happy. Unemployment is below 4% here and that plays a part.”
Do you feel freer than in recent years at Juve?
You’ve always given us the impression of controlling and predicting almost everything. The farewell party organized by the tifosi during Juventus-Atalanta however, that surprised you right?
“That day, the fans went further than anything I would have ever expected. Even my Sydney FC teammates have spoken to me about it, they saw the images on TV. Buffon said, “I envy you”. I knew I was loved by the fans, but to this extent, well…”
Let’s go back to that moment, you never really discussed it.
“No one had explicitly told me that I’d never play for Juve again, but I understood it. In that moment, I saw the board with my number and asked myself, “Do I really have to say goodbye? Am I really stepping out of this stadium for the very last time?”. I took a bow towards each of the 4 stands, waved to my family in the terraces and exited the field. I wanted to live that moment a little bit longer, but remember what I said about having a sense of responsibility and duty? Here you are. I said to myself “Ale, go sit on the bench. That’ll do.”
But then something happened.
“What happened was the fans virtually dragged me onto the field! I did two laps of honour, they must have thrown me hundreds of scarves, every now and again I stopped to enjoy the moment. I saw people in the stands in tears. It was an extraordinary celebration because of its spontaneity.”
In hindsight: wasn’t it better to end things this way, with the Scudetto, and the celebration?
“There is no evidence to the contrary. Of course the day went really well. But goodbyes always leave a bad taste in your mouth.”
Did you ever think things with Juve would end this way?
“No. A year and a half ago I would’ve never imagined. Then things change. I’m left with the the immense satisfaction of having given Juve everything that I could.”
Are you surprised, disappointed or indifferent with Andrea Agnelli’s silence?
Would you have invited Del Piero to Juve’s opening game in Serie A this season?
“Yes, I would have invited him.”
What did you think when you found out Juve did not want you anymore, but instead two teams that did want you were two great rivals whose name you will never speak (and which we will not mention either), but who have a Madonnina as their background?
(smiles) “I’ll just say thanks to all the teams that were interested in me for looking beyond the age factor or the fact I was the symbol of Juventus. Thank you for your interest and affection.”
Meanwhile, shirt number 10 at Juve remains free. Poetic justice?
“The #10 jersey is the most significant, the most dreamed of, most coveted, heaviest in responsibility. And the most beautiful. But I do not know why it’s free at Juve this season.”
We’ve started spotting some #10 Sydney FC shirts in the stands of Juventus Stadium lately…
“Yeah some friends have sent me the photos. It’s really great.”
Ale, how much of a toll did THAT video message take? Would you do it again?
“Of course I’d do it again. A better question would be: “Why did you make that video message?”. And the answer is simple: there were too many rumors about my contract. I wanted to clarify there were no issues relating to money or the length of the deal. I just wanted to stay at Juve.”
Our thanks to VecchiaSignora.com for their transcription of the interview.