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Mihajlovic launches Milan derby migrant crisis challenge

Sinisa MihajlovicAC Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has launched a plea for this weekend’s city derby to benefit “those less fortunate than ourselves” as Europe reels from an unprecedented migrant crisis.

Milan visit city rivals Inter Milan on Sunday for the season’s first ‘Derby della Madonnina’, with both sides eyeing victory amid what will be a crucial season for both.

AC Milan, the seven-time European champions and Inter, Italy’s last European champions, in 2010, are desperate for a top finish this season after failing to qualify for Europe.

But Mihajlovic, a former Serbia international who experienced first-hand the stark reality of civil war in the former Yugoslavia, has momentarily brought the pre-match tension down a notch.

A former Inter Milan favourite during his playing days but now in charge of the rival Rossoneri, he called on both clubs to use the derby as a means towards helping the thousands of migrants pouring across borders in the hope of a better life on the continent.

“I feel privileged and honoured to be in the position of coaching AC Milan in a city where I finished my playing career, at Inter,” Mihajlovic wrote in a column for La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“So I thought it would be nice, for the people like me who feel the same, to symbolically give something back to this city, at least two times a year, on the day of the derby.

“And help those in this city who are a lot less fortunate than ourselves. I know both clubs already do a lot through the various foundations. This is my personal initiative. A challenge from the heart.”

Milan has witnessed the arrival of hundreds of migrants, notably from Eritrea and Sudan, in recent months, prompting local charities into emergency action.

Mihajlovic has invited Inter and Milan to both nominate an association or charity, and offer a substantial donation after the game, albeit with a caveat: whoever wins the derby pays.

“After a victory, the rush of generosity will be even higher than usual,” he said.

“And if we happen to finish in a draw, we don’t share but double the amount to be donated.”

Calling on Inter coach Roberto Mancini to take up the challenge, Mihajlovic said: “Mancio (Mancini), do you agree?”

Mihajlovic added: “A drama has been playing out for years, and in the last few days has become even more pressing: those concerning the migrants.

“Men, women, children, thousands of desperate people fleeing from war, genocide, hunger, poverty.

“It’s a problem that has struck a particular chord with me because I’ve seen it with my own eyes and experienced it in my own country, when civil war tore Yugoslavia apart.

“Many friends and family became migrants fleeing from the war.”

He added: “I’ve helped people who I’d never seen in my life. I don’t know their names, but I remember well seeing the look of suffering and desperation in their eyes. A look that says more than a thousand words.”

Football clubs around Europe have in recent days welcomed and/or adhered to the ‘Football Cares’ initiative launched by Serie A title challengers Roma, which has invited fans to donate to charities involved in the migrant crisis.

Inter have already announced the players’ shirts from Sunday’s derby will be auctioned off to raise cash for the cause.



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