Boroughmuir Thistle U15 Purples enjoyed an experience they’ll “remember for a lifetime” during their history making trip to AC Milan this April.
The Scottish team became the first girls’ squad to take part in the ‘Milan Experience’ during their five-day long trip to the home of the European giants.
They had the opportunity to sample life as a Rossoneri superstar; from undergoing medicals and taking part in media sessions, to training at the same facilities as the club’s women’s and youth squads - they even got the chance to test themselves in games against Milan’s U14 and U15 girl’s teams.
They also toured the club museum and had the chance to meet Milan legend Franco Baresi – a player so iconic his number six shirt was retired after his final season with the club.
To top it off, on the Sunday they travelled to Caravaggio to see the women’s first team take on Atalanta, before heading to San Siro to watch the men play Lazio.
And to make things even more exciting for the girls, pictures from their trip were displayed on the big screens for all to see prior to kick-off.
It was an incredible experience, and one the girls have taken so much from says tour organiser and parent Scott Freeborn:
“Whether they play football for the rest of their lives or they go on to do other things, it’s something they’ll never forget,” he said. “I was talking to one of the mums a few days ago who mentioned her daughter had been contemplating focussing on netball.
“Now she’s come back she said she’d do it again in a heartbeat; she loved being part of the team and all the debrief sessions they spent together.
“She came out of her shell in a sense – on a personal level as well as a football level – and now she’s fully motivated to work hard and be as good as she can be.
“And she wasn’t the only one, a lot of [the girls] are ambitious and want to be elite players in the Scottish game and they’ve learned a lot from travelling and spending time together.”
The trip wasn’t just a big opportunity for Boroughmuir Thistle, it was a chance for AC Milan to show their commitment to the growth of women’s football at the club – meaning the red carpet was rolled out and they went above and beyond to make it as incredible an experience as possible.
Freeborn explained: “It was a big deal because this is AC Milan’s first ever partnership and training camp on the girls’ side of things, so they’re making a big deal out of it.
“They’ve taken a lot of videos and interviews which they are going to use to create a video package for their own PR.
“They really went the extra mile for our girls in terms of the training sessions.”
It was a partnership that began about 18 months ago, when a club parent with strong Italian connections put Thistle in touch with Brescia WFC, who were former Italian Champions, and a relationship was born.
In Easter 2018, a team of older girls had travelled to Brescia for a training camp, and the idea was to continue that arrangement, but as Freeborn explains, plans soon changed:
“A few months after [the Brescia trip], AC Milan decided that they wanted a top division women’s team, so they actually bought out the rights to Brescia’s league place and a lot of the staff and players came over – including the guys we had contact with.
“Basically, everything moved lock, stock and barrel over to AC Milan and they were very keen to keep things going.”
As well as three training sessions with the Milan coaches, where they got to experience first-hand the in-house techniques developed at Milan over the years (“There was an opportunity for our coaches to learn from them as well, which was great,” said Freeborn), Thistle also got to go toe-to-toe with the regions best young players when they took on Milan’s U14 and U15 teams.
Although competitive matches, the results didn’t go their way, but Freeborn knows the girls learned a lot from the fixtures.
He said: “My understanding is that [before the first match] the girls felt a bit nervous about going into a game with one of the biggest teams in the world and they maybe didn’t play the football they’re capable of.
“They discussed being relaxed, confident and putting into practice what they do in training because they’re all good players who have made a good start in the League.
“And they did that in the game against the older girls, they played much more like they can do.
“They held their own against an older team, so it was a great experience for them.”
As with the rest of the trip, the Scottish players were made to feel right at home by their Italian counterparts after both matches, and Freeborn believes it’s a credit to everyone involved in their trip that they were made to feel so comfortable.
He said: “The AC Milan girls were not stand-offish after the game; they hung around swapping Instagram accounts and they’ve been messaging our girls since they got back.
“For a Scottish club to go to a big powerhouse brand like AC Milan and be made to feel so welcome is really nice to see.”