Italian fans can get close to the biggest prize in club football as the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour, presented by UniCredit, passes through from 13 September to 22 October.
Italy will welcome the trophy that the world's greatest players yearn to win when the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour, presented by UniCredit, travels through the country on its autumn 2012 jaunt, from 13 September to 22 October, taking in the footballing strongholds of Milan, Turin, Bologna, Palermo, Naples and Rome.
Milan – where AC Milan and FC Internazionale Milano have performed with distinction in European competitions down the decades – stages the tour's first leg at the Piazza del Duomo between 13 and 16 September. Two footballing legends will take on ambassadorial roles, with UEFA trophy tour ambassador Ruud Gullit, who won the trophy with the Rossoneri in 1989 and 1990, and Luís Figo – a continental champion with Real Madrid CF in 2002 – on hand to give the occasion added glitter. Other great names will act as ambassadors as the tour unfolds.
En route to its final destination – a grand finale in the capital Rome from 19–22 October – the now-famous red trophy tour show truck will stop in Turin, Bologna, Palermo and Naples. A free-of-charge event exhibition will be open to fans, who will have the opportunity to take a picture with the trophy and get autographs from the ambassadors. Smaller stopover events, with trophy photo opportunities, will be held in Verona, Venice and Florence. The tour will also feature press events, with UEFA and UniCredit representatives joining football celebrities.
At the events in Turin, Bologna, Palermo, Naples and Rome, visitors will be welcomed inside the giant UniCredit Arena – in effect, a large pop-up stadium. Complete with entrance tunnel, the arena offers fans computer-simulated shots on goal, giving them a taste of how it feels to take football's centre stage on fantastic European nights. A video cube, made up of four giant television screens, will add to the arena atmosphere. The memorabilia exhibition includes players' boots, jerseys and a changing room where kits from all 13 UEFA Champions League-winning teams are displayed.
The trophy tour demonstrates the global reach and appeal of the UEFA Champions League, and will have a particular impact in a nation whose clubs have brandished the silverware on numerous occasions.
"The Trophy Tour is a great opportunity for football lovers to experience some of the magic of the UEFA Champions League," said Ruud Gullit. "For me, it brings back good memories and emotions, and I'm excited to be part of it again this year."
Moreover, the tour will be seen by UniCredit – presenters for the fourth time – as something of a homecoming, as the trophy will return to the country where the company was founded. The autumn jaunt through Italy – where half of all UniCredit branches are located – will allow the organisation the chance to highlight its activities and achievements, and promote a strong brand and sponsorship awareness.
One key initiative will be the UniCredit Cup, a youth football tournament, played on six Sundays at the tour's main stops. This will involve 32 teams of children born in 2000/01 who belong to clubs associated with the national body Centro Sportivo Italiano. The tournament's key principles include values dear to UEFA such as Respect and fair play.
"The UEFA Champions League has a long and distinguished heritage and is the pinnacle of European club football," said UEFA Events SA CEO David Taylor. "Italian clubs, coaches and players have played a huge part in building that heritage and the trophy itself represents the ultimate prize of the competition.
"By taking the trophy with Unicredit to a number of Italian cities, Italian football fans will have the chance to spend an unforgettable moment with the trophy and dream of future success."
Trophy tour schedule:
13–16 September: Milan (Piazza del Duomo)
18 September: Verona
21–23 September: Turin (Piazza Vittorio Veneto)
25–26 September: Venice
28–30 September: Bologna
2 October: Florence
5–7 October: Palermo
12–14 October: Naples
19–22 October: Rome