Renato Zaccarelli, Italian international footballer in the 80s, discusses how the Johan Cruyff Institute can help to create new sport managers, and how this path of education is required today
Renato Zaccarelli was a great midfielder for Torino FC in the 70s and 80s, who gave the “granata” supporters their first, incomparable win after the Superga airplane crash, and was selected many times to play in the Italian national team, the only one out of eleven who did not belong to the legendary Juventus FC of that time. After retiring, he has been a football manager for years in Italy, and now he’s one of Sky Sports’ top football TV commentator.
Renato, 40 years have passed since the Torino FC scudetto in 1976. A new era, many things have changed since then
Yes, it is sport that has changed. Today it’s an industry, where huge resources are required, not just financial resources but skilled human resources as well. And human resources that must work in a multifaceted scenario, with big companies and fans.
What is your feeling about these changes, having been part of this picture as an athlete and as a manager?
I think I’ve been lucky, being part of this transformation, adapting smoothly and quite naturally to these changes, thanks to the different people I worked with, all of them with wisdom and common sense, which is basic. Of course, at that time the widespread knowledge of today was far off, and if you were hungry to learn, you had to do it on your own. You had to try new and innovative methods or organizational aspects by yourself, because what you have today as common tools, either technology or planning systems, we didn’t have back then.
Of course, and today anyone working in sport must be able to understand all the interrelations of this world with business, school, finance, public bodies, large international brands, athletes and fans
Yes, even then, though today you must be consciously involved in all of this. And this awareness could lead you to see the need to educate yourself, to be on top of your game. As an example, the legacy of Johan Cruyff at the end of his incredibly bright career as a player and as a coach, and that is extremely important, this comes from the experiences he lived and the awareness he got about different roles within sport. Education is the cornerstone of a world of sport effectively managed at the top level, but also in amateur organizations, and I’m not talking just about football, but any sport.
Would you say that this awareness of the need to get a real management skill and background to work in sport is quite widespread?
Not enough, yet. All the world of sport must understand this requirement, and the opportunity to learn online is really a key factor, allowing students, athletes with regular commitment in games and training sessions, to study with coaches and managers with their own business schedule in the most flexible way when time is available. Having a personal tutor is another amazing feature of the Johan Cruyff Institute: it means a support and a whistle from the coach on the pitch, helping you to progress in your path.
In your opinion, do athletes today feel the need to prepare for a tomorrow within the sport business, when their career as an athlete will be over?
More today than yesterday, because they see different people around them, who are more or less skilled, and how these different levels fit differently in the effectiveness of the daily routines. Cruyff really said that athletes can be the best managers, because they know from inside what organizations need to operate properly. Though I’m not just thinking about the pro athletes, I’m also referring to the non-pro athletes, to the managers of small sports clubs, who are mainly volunteers, people with a passion for their sport: combining passion and work is fantastic. Then looking at the academic programs of the Johan Cruyff Institute it is clear how this combination comes true, studying subjects you like and then you will rapidly grow because your passion positively affects the time dedicated to study. Look at those who are in sport as a customer, or a supplier, those in sport federations, in brands producing sportswear and equipment, those in finance, media, communications, and also at students wishing to work tomorrow in this business: all of them may better understand the management mechanics of sports.
So then Zac, if the Cruyff Institute had existed at that moment in time when you quit as a player and started a new career would you have taken this opportunity to learn?
Sure, that would have been a great asset for my new roles. The vision of Cruyff would have been very useful for me in my career as a sport manager.
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