Gazidis talks ‘incredible’ potential, breaking down stereotypes and Ibrahimovic relationship

By Oliver Fisher -

During AC Milan’s recent institutional visit to Dubai, the Club’s CEO Ivan Gazidis spoke with CNN (via AC Milan), going through some of the key pillars for the AC Milan of the future and discussing some crucial topics of modern football.

Gazidis, invited at Expo 2020 Dubai as a global leader of the sport industry, was the keynote speaker at a panel discussion entitled ‘The future of football and its role in society: the importance of a new generation of sustainable stadiums’.

It is precisely the importance of sustainable architecture for the future of AC Milan and the whole of Serie A that opened the chat conducted by Becky Anderson, CNN Abu Dhabi Managing Editor.

“New sustainable infrastructures are the foundation on which we can build the future of football. In Italy, this is a step that needs to be taken. The Italian game was at the top of the world 20, 30 years ago, but it has not managed to build a foundation for itself as it moved forward. It needs to do that if it wants to have a healthy, robust and exciting future. Italian football can do that, the potential it can unlock is incredible.”

“Football is no longer a working men’s game. This is a game that people are watching, women are watching all around the world. It’s a global game, so it has to look at ways to be more inclusive. It starts with having a safe and inclusive environment where you can feel like you are participating at an event.”

The conversation then focused on the social role of football and on the issues of inclusion and diversity, two values AC Milan has always actively promoted.

“I believe football in some ways reflects the issues of society, but it has the ability to lead thoughts and provide better examples. One of the challenges that football has is that is very men’s dominated. We still see that in leadership positions across the game, both in the on field, for example the technical staff, and off the field, people like me, Chief Executives and Senior Management figures. We would benefit in so many ways from a more diverse environment.

“As a Club, we have done a lot of work on the diversity and inclusion issue. I have done a lot of work also with the European Club Association, where we introduced concepts of diversity, inclusion and equity. Challenging the male dominant way and cultural environment of football is a huge piece of this. It’s understanding the issue better and having better ideas to try and solve it.”

On the issue of racism, the CEO pointed out that:
“When we have racism inside our stadium, there must be consequences for those actions. And really in the end clubs have to face those consequences, because there is nobody else that is capable of implementing this change on the ground. I have to say though that overall, if we look at the past 2-3 decades, football has been an incredible force for good.”

Finally, a comment on Ibrahimovic:
“Zlatan knows that every year that goes by he needs to develop his game to continue to be performing at this level. I hope that, whenever the time will come, he will end his playing days at AC Milan. We have a special story with Zlatan. He has really given something back to the team and these young players who are growing at the Club,” he concluded.

Ibrahimovic’s contract, as we know, will expire at the end of the season and it remains to be seen if he will stay at the club for one more season. Despite some injury struggles, he has eight goals and two assists to his name this campaign.

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