MILAN - He had a record-breaking campaign last season; Romelu Lukaku “showed he was a true striker scoring goal after goal in Italy and Europe, adding generosity and altruism to his complete technical package. His human qualities make him a real leader.” Thus Gianfelice Facchetti described the reasons, for which the Belgian was awarded the “Giacinto Facchetti - il bello del calcio” prize.
During the second day of the “Festival of Sport”, Lukaku took part in a long chat with Luigi Garlando, jounalist for La Gazzetta dello Sport:
The theme of the Festival is Champions. For a child and all of us, the first champion is our dad, which comes to your mind when you think about yours?
Discipline and mentality are two things that he taught me every day, both in training and in life. Having respect for every person that you see, looking them in the eyes; simple things but they still help me each and every day.
Is there a goal of your father’s that you vividly remember?
Yes, the one against Anderlecht. He had video tapes of all of his goals, and that one against Anderlecht has stuck with me, because it was against my favourite team in Belgium. I really wanted to play for them, and that dream came true.
You mum was a champion in a difficult time for your family.
I was six years old when my dad retired from professional football and that’s when my mum was diagnosed with diabetes. We went through some tough years. Not having any money, my mum worked in restaurants and my brother and I went with her after games. My parents didn’t eat in the evenings so that me and my brother could eat. All this has stayed with me, so now always want to help my mum, because she made so many sacrifices for us. Every time I score, I make the “A” sign, dedicated to my mother Adolphine, because without here I wouldn’t be what I am today.
Molenbeek was in the news and, like all suburbs, it’s not a simple place. Did you maybe have any friends that lost their way, because they couldn’t find a way out through sport like you did?
Ever since I was six years old, I wanted to be become and footballer. It was always my dream and I worked hard for it. I went school, the training and then home. When I sent out, it was only ever to play football with my friends. My brother and I always followed this dream. Everything we did outside the house, we did with a ball at our feet. We were lucky to have parents that always helped us in life.
Hasselbaink and Vialli were inspirations for you, no?
I remember Hasselbaink’s goal for Chelsea against Manchester United when he controlled it with his chest and hit it with his right; after he scored that goal I thought, “I want to do that”. I remember Vialli, because I watched a recording of the Chelsea in the UEFA Cup final against Stuttgart, when Zola scored. I obviously remember the Inter final against Lazio when Ronaldo had the game of his life. These were all incredible games.
Coming from the Premier League to Serie A, have you noticed any cultural differences?
Since I’ve been at Inter, the people I meet have always treated me with so much love. I felt the passion of the fans in Italy straight away. I thanked them when I scored that goal against Lecce; I get so many nice messages on instagram. When you’re doing well, people repay you, which is why I want to give everything for Inter, in a way that all fans - even those of other teams - can respect me.
What’s it like playing in an empty stadium?
Horrible, you really feel it all. I think it was when we played against Brescia, I was free in the box and didn’t get the ball, I said something that maybe you shouldn’t say, which was heard on TV, but the reactions on Twitter made me laugh. Fans give us the right energy to play, it’s amazing to play and score in a full stadium. I hope they can return as soon as possible.
What do you like to do outside of football?
I like to DJ, I mix a bit at home; it relaxes me. Either that or I play football, train, play the playstation with my son or listen to music what relaxes me, because when I’m training I get angry quickly.
What advice would you give to a kid that wants to become a champion?
Be humble and get stronger each day.
How has Conte made you a better player?
In every aspect. If a player wants to play with Antonio Conte, he needs to understand it’s all sacrifice, at a physical and mental level, but you feel stronger on the pitch, which wasn’t easy for me because I live for football. I always have the aim of being a good player and winning trophies, but I knew that he was the right coach and that this was a team where I could develop. Since I started, I have given 100% every day and now we’re doing well. However, always need to think about improving every day, this is my mentality but also the team’s mentality.
Talking about champions, this word is linked with trophies.
We just need to do all our talking on the pitch, work in training and win games.
Which of your teammates is the most fun?
Sensi, Young, Lautaro Martinez, Handanovic and Barella, this is a really united group.
Which three people you would like or would have liked to meet?
My dream was to meet Kobe Bryant, and then I’ll say Mandela and Tupac Shakur.
Thank you for the award; I’m honoured to receive it.