Al-Muharraq forward Mario Fontanella, the first Italian to play professional football in Bahrain, reflected on his negative experiences in the Napoli youth system.
The Italian forward started his career with the Partenopei and made 14 Primavera appearances before leaving for third tier side Barletta in 2008. Fontanella’s highest level of experience in the Italian football pyramid came in Serie C with FC Neapolis Mugnano and Barletta. In 2015 he moved to Malta and stayed on the island until last month, when he signed for Al-Muharraq in Bahrain.
Speaking to Calciomercato.com, Fontanella first discussed if he’s ever considered returning to Italy to play football.
“Some people say that a Serie B or C club is better than the Bahraini league, but I assure you it isn’t. Here you breathe a luxury that we don’t have.
“When I was in Malta I had received a few offers from Serie C, but I never considered them because I always thought it would be a step backward in my career. Often the Maltese league was considered inferior, but now there are clubs moving on in Europe.”
The 33-year-old Italian forward looked back at his time in the Napoli youth system and what went wrong.
“I’ll tell the truth, I would never make that choice again. Playing with the shirt of my city’s team was an honour, but I was humiliated several times and in the path from the Allievi to the Primavera the stands exceeded the attendance.
“Every coach who came always sidelined me because there were players who had to play for different reasons. Today, out of the 30 boys we were then, only two of us are professional footballers.”
Finally, Fontanella commented on any regrets he has from his playing career.
“The possibility of playing in the Maltese national team had opened up, then I heard that the president of the federation didn’t want me to. At first I was disappointed, now I thank him because otherwise I would never have come to Bahrain.
“Maybe I wouldn’t have joined Napoli’s youth system, in hindsight it would have been better to go to a Serie C club and then maybe work toward the first team.”
The topic of ineffective youth development in Italy has become increasingly mainstream in recent years following the two consecutive failures to qualify for the World Cup, with many critics highlighting how few Primavera players are ever given a chance in their first teams.