Italian Youth Academy Experience in Auckland

Altan Ramadan Toffa 2 Comments

“Soccer Italian Style” Co-Founder and ACF Fiorentina Youth Coach Mirko Mazzantini

The Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport described striker Carlos Tevez as being a man of ‘seven lungs’ after Juventus defeated Lazio 2-1 to win the Coppa Italia this week.

The effort of Tevez is matched by a tenacious collective mentality in the Italian champions squad.

Barcelona knows that a very difficult Champions League Final waits in early June.

Juventus are the latest iteration of an Italian based team that has excelled in elite national or club competition.  This success is based on a development pathway that consistently produces the world’s best young footballers.

All Italian clubs have some form of academy or youth development programme.  For many clubs unearthing one stellar young player is purely about business.  The transfer fee from a young standout can make all the difference to the survival of the club.

Facilities are often challenging.  The sandlot type of surfaces played on by young urban Europeans would surprise New Zealanders who are used to lush council maintained fields.

Talent development is not just the domain of the biggest clubs as evidenced by the competitiveness of Italian age group football.

For Mirko Mazzantini, coach of ACF Fiorentina U-14, the recent 2-0 victory over Juventus shows that regional academies can mix it with the big centres of Milan, Turin and Rome.

After transitioning into coaching at the age of 17 after playing lower league football, Mazzantini has been heavily involved in the academies of Serie A clubs Empoli FC and ACF Fiorentina.

As assistant coach of the ACF Fiorentina U-15 squad that won Italy’s national championship, he believes there is one lesson young New Zealanders can embrace to achieve success.

“There is only one secret and that is work, work, work,” he emphasizes via Skype from Florence.

“Being technical is king.  The physical attributes can be developed in time.  Speed and agility can all be improved but in my opinion a player must work on his technique.”

Citing the recent approach of European academies to focus on athleticism over skill, Mazzantini is clear on his view.

“I don’t like it.  Hard work to improve technique is most important at a young age.”

With ACF Fiorentina youth teams playing more than 80 matches in a season, Mazzantini has the opportunity to observe a range of coaching approaches.

Learning has become an essential element, especially given the competitive environment in Europe.

“Like a player, if you are a coach, you need to study.  There is something to be learnt from everyone.”

Mazzantini is constantly exposed to the latest trends as evidenced by the ability to listen to Real Madrid academy coaches presenting at a June conference in Naples.

His desire to learn and share knowledge inspired him in 2005 to found Soccer Italian Style.  This programme deploys coaches that work with Italy’s best young players to developing football countries during the European close season.

Similar to experiences in the United States Mazzantini recognises that Kiwi junior players can improve dramatically.  After two visits to these shores, he views ball coordination – control and touch – as a focus.

“Possession of the ball gives the right mentality to players,” he explains.

With improved technique players become conditioned to improvement, challenging themselves to get better.  This cycle builds players that have the ability to collectively perform and work hard such as Juventus and Europa League semifinalists ACF Fiorentina and Napoli SSC.

An end of year tournament featuring the likes of Valencia and Athletico Madrid will wrap up the regular season for Mazzantini.

He is then focused on the Soccer Italian Style international programme.

Soccer Italian Style delivers a 5-day programme in Auckland during the school holiday period 6-10 July.  The course mirrors the intensity of the day-to-day experience of young Italian players.

“We have a great staff and share the same methodology.  This is the third year we have been to New Zealand.  It is a great country to visit with much opportunity for football.”

The coaches visiting Auckland are Matteo Fazzini (ACF Fiorentina) and Alessandro Limone (Empoli FC).

Soccer Italian Style delivers a unique experience to young New Zealanders – the opportunity to learn from coaches embedded in the talent pathway of one of the world’s most successful footballing countries.

Soccer Italian Style is delivered in conjunction with Auckland’s Top Flight Football Academy. 

 For more information on Soccer Italian Style visit

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Comments 2

    1. Thanks Martin, glad you enjoyed it. Mirko has some wonderful insights and it is always great to catch up with him. More to follow so keep your eyes peeled;)

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