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Vying For Vialli: Gianluca Vialli Interview

Fri 11th Apr 2014 | Marketing & PR

Among the first influx of star foreign players to come and play in the Premier League, Gianluca Vialli remains one of the most recognisable names in football. Best known on these shores for playing and managing Chelsea, winning six trophies, Vialli is now using his status as one of Italy’s great strikers to help African children through the charity Street Child.

With more than 500 appearances in his professional footballing career, Gianluca Vialli is putting his famous face to a cause away from the goalposts. Together with Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding and Apprentice star Nick Hewer, the football icon is representing Street Child’s Every Child in School campaign, in a bid to raise funds and awareness for children being denied their basic right to education in West Africa, with the government pledging to match pound for pound every public donation.

The former Juventus player has become keenly involved with the cause.

“My wife is from South Africa so I go to Africa a lot and know about the problems there. But it is also about children. Obviously wanting to help them. When you do something for children you feel fulfilled, basically, you can use many techniques to help, but I use football.”

As ambassador for the Street Child Liberia football team, Vialli has been involved in the Street Children’s World Cup that takes place in Brazil, a tournament played exclusively by “former children of the programme”.  The 49-year-old, who has uniquely scored a phenomenal 259 goals at cub level, is adamant that the beautiful game can be used for good.

“You can use football to get children off the streets, give them hope, give them an education and reunite them with their families, in this case in Sierra Leone and Liberia, places that have been destroyed by politics and civil war. So we want to give them hope and give them a better future. I had to do something to help. Hopefully I can contribute.”

The Italian football icon has long lived in London (and has the endearing one part-cockney, three part-Italian accent to prove it) and it is interesting to hear the ex-Watford manager’s take on the charity sector in the UK. Helping those less fortunate, Vialli thinks, is part of the British psyche.

“I feel that in the UK generally people do a lot for charity, which I admire. They certainly do more than in Italy. It is much more part of your culture here, which is great. It shows generosity and a desire to help the people who are not as lucky. You can do it in different ways: you can donate part of your time or energy or you can donate your money, or you can use your fame and power to send out a message. There are different ways to do this”.

Candidly, Vialli admits that this practice wasn’t one he was too familiar with upon signing for Chelsea in 1996, and says that his involvement in charitable causes is a fairly recent development in his life.

“I got to this when I was pretty old,” he confesses. “Before, when I was younger, it was all about playing football and building a family and working and making money. And when you get wiser you realise there is more to life than that and you start concentrating more on doing stuff for other people. And I really admire people that realise that from an early age and can make a difference sooner. It makes you feel better and if you feel better you live a better life. So you do it help people, for a noble cause, but I also think you do it for yourself.”

Vialli has been out of football in an official capacity since being sacked by Watford after just one season in 2002, but would be open to a return “if an amazing opportunity came along”.

As it is, for now he is happy to concentrate on his career as a pundit for Sky Italia, where he still keeps a keen interest in the Premier League. 

“I love the Premier League, it is the best competition in the world. It gives you joy, memories, emotions, and there is always so much to look forward to. It is very tight this year, with great football, unpredictable results and such a close race to win the title and I am thoroughly enjoying it. It is fantastic.”

And if he had to pick a title winner from the current top four?

“I obviously have a soft spot for Chelsea, but Liverpool, Manchester City and even Arsenal are doing great. I hope that the best team will win.”

You can support Street Child in their quest to help thousands of children leave the streets and receive an education. To donate £3, text ‘STREETCHILD £3’ to 70707 or visit www.street-child.co.uk for more details.

Posted by: Kev Howland 

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