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Inter boss Zhang ready to shake up European game

China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-12 09:43
Steven Zhang during the Italian Serie A football match between Lazio and Inter Milan at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, on May 20, 2018. [Photo/IC]

MILAN - After being elected to the board of the European Club Association (ECA) on Tuesday, Inter Milan president Steven Zhang said he was ready to shake up European soccer with his youthful energy and enthusiasm.

Zhang, 27, becomes the first Chinese among the 24 board members of the ECA, which represents 246 clubs, elected on a four-year mandate until 2023.

"I'm young, but age doesn't matter," Zhang told journalists in Geneva.

"I bring my energy and my enthusiasm, new ideas to European soccer. I feel ready at my age for the new job."

Zhang - appointed Inter president last October - is the son of Zhang Jindong, chairman of the Chinese Suning Commerce Group, which has owned a controlling stake in Inter since 2016.

"Suning has been in soccer for five or six years, I have been in charge of Inter for three. I'm still in a learning phase," said Zhang.

"I can offer my freshness, my competence and even a global vision of soccer.

"I started working very young and I went ahead step by step. My age is not exceptional at all.

"In China and the United States, many young entrepreneurs hold management positions. The new generation is full of energy and ideas.

"Soccer can no longer be limited to the 90 minutes of the game. Technology, video clips and social networks are increasingly important."

Zhang also believes three-time former European champion Inter can turn back the clock under new coach Antonio Conte as it embarks on a second consecutive Champions League campaign.

The 18-time Italian league champion last won Serie A in 2010, the year it also won the Champions League, when under Jose Mourinho it became the first Italian team to clinch the treble.

"We have a great coach, who only arrived a 100 days ago, and we are supporting him 200 percent," Zhang said.

"We have bought many young players and even if I know everyone is enthusiastic and would like to win the Scudetto and the Champions League immediately, we must give him time to work. The results will come."

Zhang said the principle of non-discrimination is "embedded in the DNA" of the club, after a widely criticized response from ultras fans to striker Romelu Lukaku being targeted for racial abuse.

Lukaku, who is black, was recently subjected to monkey chants by Cagliari fans after the Belgium forward scored a penalty.

A group of Inter fans later suggested such apparent abuse is not racist in Italy, and was a tactic they also used to unsettle opposing players.

Zhang said the club's inclusive history makes him believe "for a lot of fans, when they did it, the intention was not bad".

He said soccer is "not for violence, it's not for racism "and can be a force to educate people around the world.



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