Italy's A.C. Milan, one of the world's richest and best known professional soccer organizations, has committed to operating two weeklong soccer camps in the United States this summer, one at Towson University.
The camps are believed to be a first in this country for a foreign pro team, some of which are beginning to view America as a source of talented, cheap young prospects.
The Italian club, which carries status in the soccer world comparable to that of the New York Yankees in baseball, will run a second camp at Radford University in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. A third camp, for female players, is being considered for Maryland.
"They will send [longtime Italian national team captain and world-known defender] Franco Baresi, who is vice president of their new youth operations, and their top youth coaches to conduct these camps," said Mahmood Ebrahimzadhe. He is a Westminster-based youth coach and former World Cup player for Iran who is making arrangements here for the Italian club.
"I have no idea what to expect, but it's a great concept," said Towson men's coach Frank Olszewski, who is helping set up the camp there. "But there's huge potential here. I'm sure they're looking at it from a dollars-and-cents perspective, not for what the camps will generate, but for finding a few players they can either use, or train and sell."
Players, Olszewski said, should not expect miracles, but can expect to experience teaching with some different techniques and emphasis.
Each camp is intended to attract 200 to 250 players from 12 to 18 years of age, he said. The Towson camp is scheduled to run June 13-18, with the Radford camp scheduled for July 5-9.
The Italian club's interest in America is two-fold, said Ebrahimzadhe, who tomorrow and April 4 will take a total of four youth teams from the Middle Atlantic region to train for a week with A.C. Milan's youth teams of the same age.
First, is the rapidly improving caliber of player being developed in the United States. Second is that European pro teams, which because of a court ruling three years ago that opened domestic pro leagues there to unlimited numbers of foreign-born players, are broadening their quest for young talent.
Select, high-caliber American players as young as 14 and 15 have heard from European contacts. Many high school-age players in various "pools" from which U.S. national youth teams are formed are aware of being scouted.
Landon Donovan, 17, a California high school junior and leading scorer on the U.S. Under-17 national team, recently signed a multi-year contract with Germany's Bayer Leverkusen, starting in its youth organization. Others are elsewhere in Germany, as well as in the Netherlands.
"If A.C. Milan thinks there are enough players of high quality here to make it worthwhile, they may open a permanent school in the United States. But that is not for certain," said Ebrahimzadhe.
Pub Date: 3/16/99