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FIFA/CIES International University Network

Italian graduate talks about the FIFA/CIES Programme in India

Lorenzo D'Ilario, an Italian football referee and law graduate from University Roma Tre, successfully completed the PILLAI/FIFA/CIES Programme in Sport Management in 2021. Here he gives his impressions of the course organised by the Pillai Institute of Management Studies and Research in Mumbai, India.

Why undertake such a journey to discover the intricacies of sport management?

As the global pandemic changed our lives, I felt the need to challenge myself and make the most of my passion for sport in these difficult times. I succeeded. Last year I successfully applied for the PILLAI/FIFA/CIES Programme. After seven months of continuous study and evaluation, I presented a group research project with my colleagues entitled "Factors impacting South Asian Football - A Roadmap for Improvement" on 30 May 2021. I had the pleasure of receiving my diploma on 10 July.

What was your experience of these past seven months of study?

Very positive. As a football referee in Serie C, the Italian third division, I had to officiate my matches in empty stadiums. It was a bit sad. But, during this period, I never felt lonely because I had the chance to discover the CIES community.

From November 2020 to May 2021, it was amazing to wake up just before sunrise  to attend my virtual classes - because of the pandemic -, which often started at 5:30am due to the time difference. I was enthusiastic to be part of an international class, sharing my passion with students from India, Nepal and Saudi Arabia, including four female participants. I was so passionate that I often forgot to eat breakfast in front of my laptop. I was immersed in the lectures given by highly qualified professors and CIES guests. Without exaggerating, I literally fed off these teachings which offer a 360 degree view of sport management.

What does this educational experience represent for you?

A great opportunity for academic and professional growth. I obtained my Master's degree in Law at Roma Tre University. The Programme then gave me the opportunity to develop a global vision of sport management issues and concepts, with a unique international perspective. I really appreciated the way the faculty members combined theoretical teaching with practical case studies through an endless number of individual and group assignments, module exams, quizzes, in-class exercises and role plays. This continuous assessment method has enabled me to gain important soft skills such as adaptability, decision-making and teamwork. It also allows me to approach management in a concrete way. To give just a few examples, I had never drafted an employment contract, conducted a negotiation or settled an anti-doping dispute during my university career. The Programme filled these gaps.

Given my legal background, it was very stimulating to learn about investment appraisals, budgeting, different aspects of accounting, as well as strategic communication or marketing concepts. I am sure that this will add value to my professional career. In addition, my language skills were greatly improved as the courses were conducted entirely in English. Finally, I am grateful to the faculty members for allowing me to share my experience of sport as a football referee and an Italian national. In fact, it was very exciting to analyse in class the marketing mix of the "Golden Gala" and the "Internazionali d'Italia (Italian Open)", to identify Gianluigi Buffon's leadership style, to prepare a strategic plan for the "Italian Referees Association" or to determine the scale of the consumer benefits of the Coppa Italia final.

What do you think of the FIFA/CIES International University Network?

To tell the truth, I feel good, I feel at home in the CIES community. I really appreciated the fact that CIES offered conferences with many international experts who focused their presentations on various aspects of the European sports world. In this regard, I have a wonderful example to cite about the importance of fostering relationships and links between the students of the FIFA/CIES University Network Programme and the FIFA Master.

On 6 February 2021, Lena Schoeps, Senior Events & Hospitality Manager of Mercedes-AMG Petronas and a graduate of the 14th edition of the FIFA Master, gave a CIES virtual lecture on sports events and hospitality. At that moment, I could never have imagined that, only two months later, I would meet her in person at the Formula E-Prix 2021 in Rome, an event for which I was working as a volunteer for the paddock operations. On that occasion, she was extremely kind to show me what really goes on behind the scenes at a race weekend... That's the value of a network, of a community.

I also learned a lot from my talented classmates, all of whom came from different fields of expertise. I made connections with all of them. Among many examples, it was great to share my training journey with the Indian shooter Ayonika Paul, who represented her country at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Now I can't wait to go to India to meet them and the faculty in the flesh, to visit the PILLAI campus or see a cricket match in a stadium!

Any final words?

I would like to thank the people at FIFA and elsewhere who introduced me to the FIFA/CIES International University Network and who made me want to undertake this great experience. I would also like to express my gratitude to the people who accompanied me throughout this trip, both academically and in managing the administrative aspects which are also essential. Thanks to all of them, I had a great time!