Erick Thohir: "Team spirit and American model, but Inter belongs to the fans"


The president on Rai3: "We need a strong and exciting team. I'll buy players we need, not just ones that I like. I'll work together with Moratti"

MILAN – Here at we give you statements from Erick Thohir, who was interviewed by Fabio Fazio on Rai3’s  'Che tempo che fa'.

Erick Thohir, you are now president of Inter. How do you respond to all the fans who are wondering who you’ll buy?
"First of all, thanks for inviting me. It’s an honour to be here. I think there are a lot of rumours going around regarding players, but what we’re going to do with Inter is build a system, and I don’t think it’s for one person alone to make the decisions on players. We have to speak with all the owners and the coach to see who is best for the team, and in such a way so as to make the fans happy. I don’t have to take someone because I like him, nor would I want to. Instead, I have to buy players who serve the needs of the team, and this is what I want to do. This is very important and it’s something positive to see a team that plays well."

Have you always been an Inter fan?
"When we were kids my friends and I wanted to play in the Serie A, which is one of the best things the game can offer to the world. We became serious Inter fans in the ‘80s, during the era of the three Germans. Now we have competition from leagues like the Premier League and the Bundesliga, but I’m convinced we can be one of the best leagues in the world if we all have the desire to make improvements. There’s also the fact that Italy is one of the most beautiful countries the world."

How did the players seem to you, and what did you tell them?
"I met them with the coach, and I think it was also a surprise for me to meet these stars I watch on TV. Then I also had to make them understand as president that the team has to be supported, and that they have to give their all in every match. It’s heart that wins games, and if you play with your heart you can win any game."

Will Walter Mazzarri have your support?
"I’ve always believed that if you want to make it in life you have to always work together, have clear objectives and work hard. I see these qualities in Mazzarri, and I thank Moratti for choosing him. We have things worked out for the next 2-3 years. In 2016 the Champions League final will be in Milan and Inter will have to prepare for it. I don’t know if we can win it, but with focused preparation we’ll be back in the competition soon."

Do you know what awaits you in terms of an investment?
"Yes… [smiling]. But if you look at the last 6-7 years, we’ve also changed the model. In England 3-4 teams have ended up in American hands, like Manchester United. I’m not American but I know the U.S. well because I really love basketball. And I learned there how Americans can make sport into an industry. They’re very forward-looking and know how to grow with strength. If Inter don’t follow this model they won’t be competitive in the future. The first thing is to be strong, then the fans have to be able to see exciting games. An investment will never be profitable without a good business plan. Creating this system is crucial when it comes to supporting the team."

Was there anything Massimo Moratti asked you not to touch at Inter?
"When I first saw Moratti 5-6 months ago I had always been a fan, so meeting him was an uncommon situation. The first time I met him – and I’m speaking in all sincerity here – I told him I didn’t come to replace him but rather to create a kind of team spirit that would support Inter. I told Moratti I would never be able to do what he did, and that by working together we could become stronger. In the future there will only be 10 teams that will be remembered, and I want Inter to be one of them."

But will these 10 teams also have their own league?
"The competition has become tough; just take Real Madrid. Inter have done amazing things, but they’ve had problems in recent years. It’s not the greatest situation, but I believe we’ll build a stronger Inter with Moratti."

Will you have a home in Milan? Where will you live?
"I’ve made a commitment with Inter, and I want to have the passion to see it through. Maybe I won’t attend every match, but I’ll watch them on TV as a long-distance fan. I’ll wake up at 2:45 to watch Inter. That’s part of the commitment I’ve made. And I’ll have to be here; from 28 November to 2 December I’ll be in Milan. Then in December I’ll bring my family here to Italy and I’ll return to Milan."

But you could change the kick-off times now that it’s your team…
"No, it’s not mine; Inter belongs to the fans and the people who support them. And also to a group that manages the team, not just my own. That’s also up to the Serie A to decide."

In Milan there’s another team whose president is a well-known media mogul. You have many things in common, but in Indonesia you’re the publisher of the newspaper 'Republika'.
"Yes, but I’m not interested in running for office in Indonesia [laughing]… My interests come out of passion, which is why I’m in the sport sector."

Why was your brother named Garibaldi?
"My father chose the name, convinced it would bring good luck. My name, on the other hand, comes from the Vikings. In 2001, when I took over Republika, I explained to my brother that I liked the media business and that I wasn’t doing it for the power. And I told my father he gave me the name of a voyager, so I had to travel to Italy, the USA, etc."

Were Ventola and Fresi really your idols at Inter?
"If I mention Ronaldo or Figo everyone knows them and considers themselves a fan of those players. But I also remember the Inter of the Fresi and Ventola era, which had a lot of bad luck. I’m not a Ventola fan just because of his wife [laughing]."

When do you expect your first Scudetto to come?
"Let’s leave God to decide that."

Couldn’t you also buy Alitalia?
"It’s not part of my business interests, but I’d be happy to set up new ties between Italy and Indonesia [smiling]."

Are you familiar with my team, Sampdoria?
"Yes, they once played a game in Indonesia. I remember Attilio Lombardo."

(The interview ends as Thohir thanks Fazio once again and autographs his first Inter ball for him, complete with the slogan 'Forza Inter' in Italian).

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