Nicolato: “We’ll be counting on our youngsters when play resumes!”

An exclusive interview with our Under-21 Coach touched on working from home, his music tastes and his thoughts on the future of Azzurri youth football

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Nicolato: “We’ll be counting on our youngsters when play resumes!”

Formerly Head Coach of the National U18s, U19s and U20s, Paolo Nicolato has now been in charge of the Azzurri Under-21s since last summer. An adventure that saw him reach the final of the U19 Euros in 2018, as well as the U20 World Cup semi-finals in 2019; a continuous path of growth, both on an individual level and as a group, which currently sees his side pursuing qualification for the continental competition, sitting on 13 points from their five games so far. Born on 21 December 1966 in Lonigo, but currently living in Sona, we had the chance to hold an exclusive interview with our Coach.

How’s life at home going?

I’m focusing on my work and my family, trying to help out around the house where I can. I think that the family time has been a positive to take from this period, especially for people like me who are often away from home for work. I’m also trying to keep moving by doing some exercise in the garden. I spend the rest of my days reading and listening to music, a great passion of mine.

What type of music do you like?

A bit of everything, from hard rock to classical music. But I mainly listen to songs from bands from my youth, like Pink Floyd or Dire Straits. Their music is of such a great quality, it’s just timeless.

Have you managed to keep in touch with the Azzurrini?

Yes. They’re a group I’ve coached for four years now across the different teams. We exchange news, I update them on what we’re doing and we analyse old games. We’re doing the same thing with Club Italia and the staff led by the National Youth Sector coordinator Maurizio Viscidi, with frequent conference calls as a group.

How much will this break from football affect your future plans?

At the moment it’s simply not possible to predict anything, because it’s still not clear what will happen. Perhaps we’ll know something by the end of the month, but for now we just have to wait. We’ll have to see whether we can jam-pack games in alongside the league campaigns. Last but not least, we’re waiting to find out if the team from the current two-year period will stay the same, seeing as some of the boys will be 24 now that the competitions have been postponed, which might mean they can no longer compete in the competitions. I don’t know if it would be fair to make them miss out on an experience as educational as the Under-21s.

What were your thoughts on the season so far before it got interrupted in March?

In terms of young players, you have to establish a clear divide between the two leagues. Not many youngsters in Serie A get the chance to play consistently, and some of those who do are already part of the senior National Team. That’s why we’ve largely built up a team from players in Serie B, a league which has offered young players a lot of minutes on a big stage.

What sort of football would you like to see once the game is back?

In terms of roles and conviction, I’ve always considered football a sport for young people. In our world, results come if you make the right changes and manage to uncover new champions. So I’m hoping that our new recruits will be given more and more leading roles. It’s opportunities that give people a chance to show their value, even if they’re just 16 years old.

Finally, who would you award the “Heart Scudetto” in the fight against the Coronavirus?

I would award it to people with big hearts, those who are helping others right now. To the men and women in all areas, from healthcare to social work, who are thinking about others as opposed to just about themselves. I’ve always been struck by those who manage to put themselves at risk for entirely selfless reasons, and I think that those sorts of people should be recognised at this time.