The TGU Interview: Meet Sir Anton Muscatelli, University Principal and honorary member of Internazionale

For a lifelong Inter fan, a letter signed personally by club legend Javier Zanetti is as good a piece of correspondence as you’re ever likely to receive. Sir Anton Muscatelli doesn’t disagree. “To receive the letter felt fantastic,” Sir Anton, Principal of Glasgow University, said. “It was very special to receive a letter from one of my footballing heroes – this got me more kudos and street-cred from my son than anything else I have ever done.

The letter from Zanetti, received earlier this year, confirmed Sir Anton as an honorary member of the club he has supported since his youngest days:

“It’s a great pleasure that a huge Nerazzurri fan like you is part of the Inter Club family. You represent the spirit and passion of over 100,000 members who fly the Nerazzurri flag around the world.”

 

The Nerazzurri DNA is a special attribute that’s been handed down from father to son for over 50 years and it’s what makes us unique.”

Sir Anton was born in the southern Italian town of Bari, but from the very beginning, his family ensured he gravitated towards the Milanese outfit. “I had a favourite uncle when I was young, and he was an Inter supporter, and so a number of us who were part of the extended family started following Inter too.”

The 1960s, and the ‘Grande Inter’ of Helenio Herrera, were a special time to be growing up as a Nerazzurri fan. Sir Anton’s first memories of the club are ‘grainy black and white pictures’ from season 1966/67 and tuning in religiously to the Tutto il Calcio Minuto per Minuto show on short-wave radio. “Being such a dominant side, Inter had some iconic players such as Giacinto Fachetti and Sandro Mazzola,” Sir Anton said. “There are also great centre-forwards such as [Roberto] Boninsegna and [Alessandro] Altobelli, who I saw score in the European Cup when I was still at university.

With his family moving to Holland when he was still young, Sir Anton had to wait until the early 1980s to see his beloved Inter in the flesh for the first time – a pre-season friendly in Viareggio. He then went on to study in Milan and thus had the chance to watch Inter more often at the San Siro. “Going to the San Siro is incredible,” he said. “It’s an amazing stadium, the atmosphere is absolutely fantastic and the choreography of the Curva Nord is always great to see… They play on all the club’s history and iconography.”

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Having followed the club for more than half a century, Sir Anton has quite a roll call to select from when quizzed about his favourite Inter player. However, one special player stands out as the most complete he has seen in the black and blue stripes. “Ronaldo is probably the best Inter player I have seen,” he said. “His speed and skill on the ball and his goal scoring ability – he was just a complete player. I was very sorry to see him leave. The Inter side with Ronaldo in it should have won the championship, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that they deserved to win the league.

Sir Anton also has great admiration for the ‘leaders’ who drove Jose Mourinho’s all-conquering Inter side to the club’s third European Cup triumph, in season 2009/10 when they beat Bayern Munich in the final. Zanetti, Diego Milito, Walter Cambiasso and Wesley Sneijder are all singled out for special praise. “Zanetti was an astonishing footballer, especially when you think of his longevity and his time at the top level of the game,” he said. “Diego Milito was also instrumental to that triumph. They were such a solid, solid side with no weaknesses. Mourinho even managed to get [Samuel] Eto’o to play left-back! Winning that third Champions League was just such a fantastic moment. I was too young in 1964 and 1965 so I had never seen Inter win the European Cup.

For Sir Anton, ‘transmitting the passion of Inter’ to his son and daughter has been every bit as important and enjoyable as winning Scudetti and European Cups. “I enjoy the notion of supporting Inter being passed on through the family,” he said. “Inter is a very strong bond in our family.”

Indeed, echoing the sentiments of Javier Zanetti’s letter, Sir Anton will hope that his family continue to hand down the Nerazzurri DNA to future Muscatelli generations. After all, it is a legacy that ensured Sir Anton became an honorary member of his beloved Internazionale.

Words and interview by Martin Dunlop: @Dunlop85