Monday, May 4, at 20:45, the Giuseppe Meazza stadium, better known as San Siro, opens its gates to football stars past and present as well as fans, enthusiasts, and visitors from all over the world who have come here for Expo Milano 2015. The objective: to improve child nutrition
Vice president of Inter, Javier Zanetti, together with the PUPI Foundation
has masterminded Zanetti and Friends Match for Expo.
A few days following the opening of the Universal Exhibition, the Argentine champion – who is also an Expo Ambassador
– is back on the field. This just one year after retiring and taking up his new role: that of promoting the values of sport, in addition to the importance of proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.
Your story, your connection with the San Siro stadium in Milan dates back exactly 20 years... to August 1995. Are you able to mentally travel back to that particular summer?
I made my debut at San Siro against Vicenza, that was my first official match as part of the Inter Milan team. I quickly realized that playing in that stadium is something really special. That day the fans were out in force and created a very special atmosphere. From that moment I understood what it means to play at San Siro, I felt its history. And May 4 will be another special moment because it’s exactly one year since my farewell match, so this event will generate some very strong emotions in me for sure.
Who will be playing at the match on May 4?
There will be many players who have made history at Inter and AC Milan. There will be Lothar Matthäus, Andreas Brehme, Walter Zenga, Beppe Bergomi, Ivan Zamorano, Ruben Sosa, Youri Djorkaeff, Hernán Crespo, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta, Franco Baresi and Beppe, Zvonimir Boban, Andriy Shevchenko, Cafu, and Edgar Davids, as well as many others. All international players who have shown a willingness to participate in this initiative!
Back to your career as a player. What was the most important moment for you in the almost twenty years you spent on the pitch?
The most important was the night of the Madrid game, the final of the Champions League 2009/2010 against Bayern München, where the result was 0-2 to Inter. For all that this meant to us, for the company, for the fans. The fact that I was captain of that team, to have had the privilege of holding the trophy and bringing it back to Milan is something I cannot describe. That day we arrived at San Siro at 5.30am and the stadium was already packed with fans who were waiting for us.
I was one of those fans ...
These are all images that have made it an unforgettable memory.
Do you remember what you ate before that event?
Before a game I used to eat pasta and a little meat. In particular bresaola seasoned with olive oil, parmesan and lemon. And that game was no exception, because this type of food always made me feel good, it’s a healthy food, one that allowed me to play at a high level for many years.
Eating well, eating healthily is important for those who play sport, correct?
It’s very important because these two things are directly related. If you eat well, you feel good. And this feeling allows you to express yourself, to be in top condition and be able to give your all, in football, and in any other sport.
What is your favorite dish?
As an Argentine I love “asado”, although Italian cuisine is among the best. I eat a lot of pasta because they don’t make it the same as they do here anywhere else in the world. And I really like “cotoletta alla milanese” (breaded veal cutlet).
You have two restaurants in Milan, El Gaucho and Botinero. Do you follow any particular rules when choosing your produce and ingredients?
These are two different types of restaurants. El Gaucho offers the best of Argentine cuisine, so we carefully choose the very best meat that comes from my country of origin to ensure that customers can really taste something typical, that for which Argentina is world famous for. At Botinero there is more choice, and you can also order pasta dishes, or fish. Again we are very fussy about quality. We know that good nutrition is important, and not just for those who play sport, and we want people to leave the table feeling satisfied.
The PUPI Foundation can be considered a long-term victory. Together with your wife Paula, you have created something that helps many children in need in Argentina. What are the most important results you have achieved with the foundation in this area?
First I have to thank the Italians because they have proved to be very alive to these issues of solidarity. It is thanks to them that the PUPI Foundation exists, because of the great participation at all the events that we organize here in Italy. The Foundation was established in 2001 and is now known around the world. I am very happy about this, but it also means we have great responsibility. Working with children is not easy, but those who work for the Foundation always give of their best to ensure that these children can have a future and are able to grow into valued members of society.
Our most amazing result so far was attained by Jonathan, a child who started his journey with the Foundation when he was five years old. Now, at 18, he has offered to volunteer to help other children. This for me was the greatest reward because it made me realize that the work of the Foundation is extremely important, and the kids really feel at home.
What is your involvement with Expo Milano 2015, and what legacy do you think it will leave to us as citizens and to Milan?
Expo Milano 2015 can give us many things. It's an opportunity to welcome millions of people and raise awareness of a wonderful city like Milan, of Italian cuisine, and our culture. Nutrition is vital and we must know how to handle and pass on the values surrounding this topic.
For those reading this interview, can you explain what buying a ticket for the Zanetti and Friends Match for Expo means?
It is an event for those who have lived or currently live in this city. But the most important thing is that the proceeds will go to many associations and voluntary organizations working in the territory to create a better Milan.