The soccer-struck Shah family travelled to the small Italian town of Vittorio Veneto in summer. While the boys, Crish, 15, and Neel, 12, joined the AC Milan summer camp, Nirvan, 43, businessman and football coach, and his wife Anjali, 39, took in the sights.
Why would all four of you go to a football camp for a summer holiday?
On earlier holidays, we have travelled through Europe, North America and New Zealand. But our children weren’t interested in visiting the museums and tourist attractions that we wanted to see, which made it difficult for us to enjoy our
holidays. An organized summer soccer camp in Europe was a win-win situation: The kids enjoyed their break and polished their football skills, while we enjoyed the country.
Have a ball: (left) Nirvan, Neel and Anjali wave the AC Milan flag outside the San Siro stadium before a match; (right) the San Marco Square full of tourists.
Other clubs, too, host summer camps. Why did you choose AC Milan?
We have watched half a dozen football matches in Europe and visited the stadia and museums at Nou Camp, Barcelona; Old Trafford (home to Manchester United), Stamford Bridge (Chelsea), Emirates Stadium (Arsenal), Ibrox stadium (Rangers), Anfield (Liverpool) and the City of Manchester Stadium (Manchester City). AC Milan is a family favourite since they’re the best club team in Europe, and Italy are the world champions. The best players of the Brazilian and Italian national teams play here. It doesn’t hurt that Milan is the fashion capital of the world and has a glorious history right from the times of the Renaissance.
But the camp wasn’t held in Milan, was it?
No, it was held in Vittorio Veneto, in the province of Treviso. It’s a small town, with very well demarcated old and new parts. The older section is very quaint, with narrow cobbled lanes and heritage buildings, while the new part is modern European, with theatres, cinemas and nightclubs.
I guess the boys’ day — and consequently yours — was clearly defined.
Yes, the boys would have breakfast at 8am and then go to the training facility, 10 minutes away. They would train till 12pm and return for lunch and rest till 2pm. Then they’d go back to the field and play mini-leagues or do skills/fitness tests or play a match. By 5pm, they would be back, relaxing till dinner at 7pm. Post-dinner, there would be a quiz or an excursion into town. By 9pm, they’d be back in their rooms. Over 10 days, they were taken to the San Siro stadium and museum, escorted on a Milan city tour, visited a castle and watched AC Milan play at San Siro.
While my husband, who is a Uefa (Union of European Football Associations) licensed football coach — he’s also the director of the Premier Indian Football Academy (www.pifacademy.com), which organized this trip — would accompany the children on some days, on other days he would take in the sights with me. One day, for instance, we went to Venice.
That must have been spectacular.
It truly was. The moment we stepped out of the rail station, the city took our breath away, with its palazzos and bridges. The Basilica and the Piazza San Marco, with the famed pigeons, were expectedly very crowded with tourists. We also visited Basilica di Santa Maria, the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, the Grand Canal… The whole town seemed very artistically inclined, with paintings, plays and music on the streets. The best way to explore it is by foot. The boys couldn’t join us, of course, and we really missed them.
And what was the coaching like for the boys?
It was of the highest standards, similar to the coaching premiership players undergo, though, of course, it is age-specific. It was conducted by Ferdinando de Matthaeis, a teammate of Pele and Beckenbauer from the New York Cosmos. After an AC Milan-AS Roma match, we got to meet the stars — my husband took a photo with Kaka — and also former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who owns AC Milan.
After the camp, the children played a match against a local side. Even though they lost 2-3, they played very well. Neel’s dribbling, especially, improved considerably over the duration of the camp.
Would you do something like this again — a holiday where the boys do their own thing and you do yours?
The Italian trip was both a holiday and about doing something we love. We all enjoyed our time and space. While the boys learnt to play football, we learnt something about Italy.
Fly to Venice on most European carriers with a stopover at their hub. Ex-Delhi, Lufthansa offers round-trip economy fares upwards of Rs39,000; ex-Mumbai, SwissAir flies for upwards of Rs43,000; ex-Bangalore, Air France has fares upwards of Rs38,000.
As told to Sumana Mukherjee. Share your last holiday with us at firstname.lastname@example.org