On the eve of the finals series, Alessandro del Piero speaks to Michael Cockerill about his first season in the Hyundai A-League, and his hopes for the future.
On the eve of the finals series, Alessandro del Piero speaks to footballaustralia.com.au associate editor Michael Cockerill about his first season in the Hyundai A-League, and his hopes for the future.
Q. For a lot of famous footballers finding some sort of security, and privacy, is a big thing. Have you found this in Australia? A. Yeah for sure, I find a good situation here for that. I'm happy about that.
Q. Is it important to you to have this atmosphere around yourself? A. Yeah, it's important for everyone. But also for me.
Q. How would you describe Australians, as people? Very different to Italians? A. Not a lot. We have many Italians here, a few generations. The (Australian) people are very kind people, I spend a good time here so far.
Q. Is there anything you especially like about Australia? A. Sydney is a wonderful city. The weather is wonderful, the people very nice, friendly. There are many places you can go to eat. It's good to spend time with my family, first of all, because I have three young boys. That's why I can find everything here.
Q. Is there any one thing you like, though? A. The weather, nature, the big space. That's very good for me.
Q. You've mentioned the Italian community in Sydney. Have you deliberately tried to stay away in order to help you assimilate, especially in terms of improving your English? A. I met a lot of Italian people, I'm very proud of that, I'm really happy about that because they look at me like Italia. I spend with them a good time, I'm happy to meet them.
Q. So you don't feel you need to stay away to assimilate? A. No, that's okay. There are many different people here, not only Italians. Asia, Greek, Slavia people, Croatian, Serbian, all of them. You can find everything here, it's good.
Q. You have recently agreed to a new contract with Sydney FC. Why? A. Because, first of all, I think my life is here for two years. That's what we signed before, and we keep in touch in February, and both me and the club decide we stay. This is what we think from the first moment. That's OK.
Q. Did you, at any stage, think you might not come back for another season? A. No. When I started I wanted to complete the season before I say something about that. But nothing during the season. We had a lot of problems, for sure, with results. But sometimes this happens. Now we make sure the next one (season) will be better than the last one.
Q. How do you look back on the season. With pride, at your own achievements, or disappointment with the team's results? A. Both. First of all looking for results for the team, because I am part of the team. That's why, for sure, I'm disappointed what happened this season. Like my teammates, like the club. We have a lot of problems, but we try to fix for each other.
Q. Were you at all surprised with the impact you made off the field, in terms of crowds, and television ratings? A. I'm surprised but I'm very happy. We played many sold-out stadiums, in Sydney, the derby, in Perth. All parts of Australia. That's very good. The passion of the crowd followed me. That's one good point of how we start.
Q. You were so accustomed to winning at Juventus. Often you've looked frustrated on the field this season. How hard has it been to deal with the lack of success at Sydney FC? A. For sure when you lose you are frustrated. But it's part of the game and I have to accept. What I do is start next season better than the last one.
Q. Was there a low point of the season for you? A. We start in bad situation when the coach (Ian Crook) is leaving. We made, unfortunately, a lot of losses. 7-2 in Central Coast.
Q. You missed that game. A. Yeah, I watch on television. That was one of the low moments. When we are on bottom of the table, also. But after that we are getting, step-by-step, better. We played the last game to get inside the play-offs. This is a very good step for us.
Q. You've now completed the season. What were your general impressions of the playing standard? A. It's a very hard competition because all the teams are very fit, strong, like a physical situation. I understand, that's what a lot of people tell me before. You can win and lose every game. It's OK. I learn a lot, that's why I think I can play better next year.
Q. What did you learn? A. I now understand what the football is here. You have to spend time for that.
Q. How did you find the derby matches against the Wanderers? A. It's very exciting. First time happen in the A-League. We play both games in Parramatta sold-out, the crowd for Sydney FC and Wanderers. Very passionate people. Very good atmosphere, like Europe.
Q. Any comparisons to the Torino derby? A. It's different, but it's good.
Q. Let's talk specifics. Is there any technical, or tactical, part of the game here that you believe especially needs improvement? A. I speak about our situation, because the other ones (clubs) I don't know. For sure we can play better with technical and tactical situation, but also physical. I think every year you can improve. That is the way you have to follow.
Q. Do you think there is anything in particular the players here are missing? A. All my teammates, we play 100 per cent. But sometimes the team is not going well, so next year we have to make sure we don't have the same problems as the first three or four months here. That's the key.
Q. Were there any teams that impressed you? A. I think the top three (Western Sydney Wanderers, Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory). They played good, they have a good idea of football. Good knowledge.
Q. The modern game? A. Yes, yes.
Q. Were there any players who impressed you? A. I don't want to say one particularly. There's a lot. Two, three, in every team you can say is a very good player.
Q. As far as your own role at Sydney FC, it seemed at times you lacked someone to play off. Is there a particular kind of striker you prefer to work with? A. In all my life I play with very different players. Sometimes taller, faster, striker. Sometimes smaller like me. Two in the front, one big and fast, good in the air. But not one particular player I like. When you are with the team, you have to follow what is the quality of each player. For example, for me I have to play, for sure, on the ground. Not the tall ball.
Q. Do you want Sydney FC to find a different type of striker to combine with you for next season? A. No, no. I don't know whether we need another striker, or a defender. We just need to improve the team in the parts we need to improve. Also the players already here, there's a lot of good players. So next year we all have to play better.
Q. You will be working again with Frank Farina. There seems to be a good relationship developing between the two of you. A. It's true. We work together very well. Together, we want to win more.
Q. So your understanding is a good one? A. Yes, he's very smart, very experienced, a very good trainer. There's no problem with him.
Q. Do you hope to become a coach one day? A. I don't know. I will just focus on next season as a player.
Q. Is it possible to start the coaching journey here in Australia, rather than back in Italy, where the pressure on you would be enormous? A. Yeah, less pressure here for sure.
Q. So maybe? A. I don't know, I don't know.
Q. The Italian media, who followed you closely, were often very uncomplimentary about the A-League. How did you deal with the criticism of the A-League from Italy? A. It's not easy to be critical - for the journalists to say something - when you watch only one game per week. Our game. They can make good comments about our team, but they need to learn more about everything else. That's why we need the TV in Italy to show more games. That would be a good thing.
Q. Do you believe Europeans, generally, find it hard to accept that football is growing around the world, and more and more players may leave Europe for new experiences? A. Not really, but you have to spend time, sometimes months, to understand a new situation. That's what happened with me. The same for any visa player who comes, for the first time, here. The same happens in Italy for the visa players. You need time to understand language, teammates, everything around you.
Q. You've said a lot of other Italian players have called you asking about Australia. A. A lot are very curious about here. I hope someone come.
Q. Would you like an Italian teammate at Sydney FC next season? A. Maybe, yes.
Q. Have you been challenged more, both on and off the field, than you expected to be? A. Challenge? Yes. It's a new world for me. Everything changed after 19 years in the same place. That's why it's not easy sometimes. But I'm here with a lot of curiousity, I open my arms, I open my heart, to understand what happens here. It's good for me, and my family.
Q. What are your personal expectations for next season? A. For sure we have to go to the play-offs. We will see what happens this winter with the transfers, new players, what changes here with the way we work. The pre-season, this is the most important part.
Q. Will next season be your last? A. At the moment, yes (laughs). I don't want to think after that. Just concentrate on next season.
Q. Finally, do you have a tip for the championship this season? A. Aaah, I don't know. I just want to say good luck to every team. They are in the play-offs, so they play better than us. All the best for everyone.