AS Roma striker Stefano Okaka Chuka last night became the youngest player to represent an Italian side in European competition.
Okaka, who only turned 16 in August, played the entire 90 minutes of Roma's 0-0 draw at Aris Thessaloniki FC which gave the Gialorossi a 5-1 aggregate win and qualification to the UEFA Cup group stage. "I'm incredibly happy over my debut," said the striker. "I even went close to scoring. My team-mates and my coach [Luciano] Spalletti were very helpful and I thank them very much. It was a fantastic night for me."
Okaka, who won the Scudetto Primavera last season with Roma's youth team, was born in Italy into a sporting Nigerian family. His father Austin was also a striker, while his mother, Doris, was a 100m sprinter. Spalletti said: "He was a bit nervous ahead of the game, but he calmed down and played very well. He proved he can take responsibility on his shoulders." Roma signed Okaka from AS Cittadella two years ago, seeing off competition from rival clubs including AC Milan.
Before Okaka's debut, the youngest player to represent an Italian team in Europe was the Colombian forward Johnnier Motano, who appeared in the UEFA Cup for Parma FC when he was 16 years and eight months old in 1999, while the youngest Italian player to have appeared in Europe was Martino Traversa, who played in the UEFA Cup for Bologna FC in 1991 at the age of 17 years and one month.
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