AZZURRI ADVENTURE: Gladstone boys off to Italy
SOCCER: Gladstone duo Nate Beach and Maksim Bijelic are about to leave on a footballing trip of a lifetime to test their skills against the best Italy has to offer.
The 12-year-olds will embark on an 11-day tour of Italy run by the AC Milan Soccer School.
The school is conducted by former AC Milan player Andrea Icardi, who made 141 league appearances for the club between 1980-86.
A midfielder during his playing days, Icardi went on to play for Atalanta, Lazio and Verona before moving to Sydney to play one season with Marconi Stallions in 1993-94.
The Gladstone boys will come up against the cream of Italy's youth with friendly and tournament games scheduled against some of the country's powerhouse clubs.
"The boys from Gladstone have to expect professional young players who are training four times a week and are already really good," Icardi said.
"Usually we organise three friendly games before the tournament. We play against Genoa, Alessandria and Monza.
"That experience will be unbelievable because they play really good football and for us it will be a fantastic experience to touch the real football in Europe.
"We usually stay in Novarello, which is a big centre near Novara and they have seven fields at the centre - it's one of the best centres in Europe so even that will be good for the boys to see.
"Novara plays in second division in Italy, Serie B, so they can probably see the professional players train during the morning while we stay there."
The Sydney-based soccer school will take a large contingent of players and staff on its Italian odyssey, which consists of two junior squads.
"After five days we move to Tuscany and there are two tournaments; one tournament is for the boys born in 2005 and the other for the 2006 boys," Icardi said.
"We play against all professional teams - it could be (AC) Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Torino, Sampdoria - whoever is participating we play against them.
"They play five games in four days... The experience will be very, very good for them."
The Gladstone pair are handy players in their own right having made the CQ Mariners under-12 representative side last year. They also attended the Milan Soccer School when they held a clinic in Gladstone last September.
Nate plays right-back but can also play further up the pitch, while Maksim is a defensive midfielder.
"I'm looking forward to playing against top clubs in Italy and I've got to try and play my game and not get intimidated by them," Maksim said.
Besides from trying out his favourite Italian cuisine, Nate is also hoping to leave a good impression on potential European scouts. "I'm looking forward to gaining experience and getting looked at," he said.
"The possibility of playing for AC Milan permanently would be amazing."