Robin Paring is probably the happiest 12 years old in Estonia right now.
The reason is simple: he managed to bring home the 2014-15 jersey of AC Milan signed by the Italian striker Stephan El-Shaarawy.
In order to understand how a 12-year-old from Elva, South Estonia, is connected with AC Milan, we have to set the clock back to last year when Latvian club, FS Metta, visited the city of Elva (5,000 inhabitants, 25km from the bigger Tartu) for the youth Elva Cup.
‘They liked our pitches and the tournament’ explained Marek Naaris, FC Elva representative, to Rumori. ‘FS Metta has been organizing the Milan Junior Camp for 7 years thanks to Stefano Chiussi (an Italian businessman based in Latvia offering investment opportunities in several fields including sport management –edit). Stefano was looking for a partner in Estonia and FS Metta mentioned FC Elva. The contact was established and we made fast progresses in the arrangements’
Since then, FC Elva have been frantically working on organizing the first ‘Milan Junior Camp’ in Estonia which took place last week (11th – 15th of August). ‘After the agreement was made, we had just one month and a half to promote it’ confessed Marek to Rumori.
A short time that would explain the lack of coverage around Estonia and, as a consequence, the tiny turnout compared to the ‘AC Milan’ brand being spent for the event. ‘We had 52 boys and one girl' recounted Marek proudly. 'They were coming from Elva, Tartu, Otepää and Tallinn’ explained Marek ‘including young footballers from our club, from Tammeka, Tabasalu JK and Nõmme Kalju academies’.
However, it was not only about the brand.
The kids, besides receiving AC Milan training kits, they had the chance to follow the teachings of two youth coaches from the Milano club: Patrizio Billio and Elisabet Spina. A similar pattern followed more than ten years ago for the 'Inter Campus' held in Tallinn and directed by Franco Pancheri.
Patrizio Billio is a former football player (Livorno, Verona, Monza, Dundee and Crystal Palace in his CV) with UEFA B-licence under his belt. He has had past experiences at Milan Junior Camp in Brazil and Kuwait having spent his training career within the ‘Rossoneri’. Elisabet Spina is an Italo-Swedish female coach who has played women top-flight football both in Italy and Sweden and can also boast a good CV in youth training: UEFA youth coach licence and graduation in sport sciences. Several ‘Milan Junior Camp’ experiences under her belt too: Riga, Florence, Viareggio. She also worked at ‘Nike Soccer Camp’ in the US.
Marek, what were the main benefits for both the kids and your youth coaches at FC Elva?
All our coaches had the chance to work with Patrizio and Elisabet who are both great leaders and trainers. It was a chance to learn the ‘Milan Junior Camp’ methodology. Trainings have been tough but inspiring and all the kids have enjoyed them a lot. I can assure you that kids, during a week, have improved tremendously! I have witnessed their progresses with my own eyes. Participating to Milan Junior Camp is a chance to improve your skills.
Considering you did have short time to make the event known in Estonia, will kids have another chance next year?
Yes, the next camp is already fixed for August 2015 (10th -14th – edit). This is a nice location for people living in big cities as Elva is a quiet place. Kids and their families can relax after the trainings and go swimming or taking a walk in the woods.
Looking at the organizational side, what are the conditions put by AC Milan for entrusting a club the organization of ‘Milan Junior Camp’?
First of all, the pitches have to be in good conditions. Second, the changing rooms have to be close by. Obviously, also the local youth coaches have to be on a good degree.
Is there a chance the ‘Milan Junior Camp’ would open a preferential way in terms of talent scouting? What are the real chances for the young kids to be followed in future by this big club?
I can mention that a Latvian kid was sent to Milan Academy last year. In general we are glad to be a partner for a big institution as AC Milan. If the ‘Milan Junior Camp’ notice potential talents here, they can send the names to Milano. I can tell you that in March 2015 there will be the ‘AC Milan Day’ and participants of the camp in Elva can go to Italy and have a nice weekend together with other kids from all over the world. It’s another chance to be scouted.
What were the reactions in a small town like Elva to such event?
I think the people from Elva did not quite understand how big this was for Estonia and Elva especially. I can assure you that ‘Milan Junior Camp’ will get more known through the years. We are already planning to get last-week activity known through the media in order to make understand what will all be about during the next camp. Under this point of view, we are glad Rumori approached us to enquire about the event.
'It was the best week of my life!'' said Giacomo Uggeri, a 13-year-old Italian living in Tartu with his family, at the end of the camp. The young AC Milan fan plays in FC Helios and has two older brothers (Simone and Emanuele) playing in FC Tartu.
Each kid has received a diploma at the end of the camp and will receive up to 4 tickets to go watching a selected game of AC Milan 2014-15 season.
Robin and Giacomo will have the chance to see El-Shaarawy with their own eyes.