ROME, Feb 8, 2011 (AFP) - Inter Milan's Brazilian midfielder Thiago Motta said on Tuesday that his heart would be bursting with pride when he makes his debut for his adopted country Italy in Wednesday's friendly with Germany.
The 28-year-old - whose great grandfather Fortunato Fogagnolo emigrated from Italy aged 20 for Brazil - said that while he would not be able to join in the singing of the national anthem, he felt 100percent Italian.
|Inter Milan's Cameroonian forward Samuel Eto'o (R) celebrates with teammate Brazilian midfielder Thiago Motta (L) after scoring on February 6, 2011 against AS Roma during their Serie A football match at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Inter won 5-3. AFP|
"I may have been born in Brazil, but I feel 100percent Italian," said Motta, after learning that Italy coach Cesare Prandelli had selected him in the starting line-up.
"To wear the 'azzurri' shirt gives me a totally different emotion of all those that I have experienced before in football.
"Tomorrow (Wednesday) will be for me a huge occasion, I feel privileged. The national anthem? I know it but I don't know how to sing it."
However, while Prandelli and world governing body FIFA have no problem with Motta playing for a country other than his birth, it was not a view echoed by Brazil coach Mano Menezes.
"I am against these naturalisations, players must represent their country, and the national team is a symbol of a country," said Menezes, who was speaking in Paris on the eve of his side's friendly with France.
"But if Thiago Motta has chosen to play for Italy for particular reasons, it is because he has feelings for this team, and good luck to him."
Motta, who has been based for the past three years in Italy first with Genoa and then with Inter, was not happy to learn that Italo-Argentine Cristian Ledesma had been booed by some Italian supporters when he made his debut, again under Prandelli, against Romania last November.
"Ledesma was whistled when he played for Italy? That is not very nice, in front of children who are watching the match, I regret that," said Motta, who was given the green light by FIFA on Monday because he had represented junior Brazil teams but had not played for the senior side.
The most celebrated crossover was Argentinian-born wing Mauro Camoranesi, who was on the 2006 World Cup winning side then coached by Lippi.