Many people grew up following football, while, for me, the Beautiful Game was embedded in me from before I was born.
My heritage is Italian, and in Italy, football isn't just a means of recreation and activity, it is a way of life. Plans are made around when and where your team is playing, while the first port of call for the majority of Italians is to head over to "il bar" (coffee shop) to sip on an espresso and read La Gazzetta dello Sport (Italy's famous pink sports newspaper).
Lunch conversations are dominated by the action that took place over the past weekend, while the train rides home and discussions around the dinner table are filled with chatter about the sport. There isn't a day that passes by where football, or rather "calcio", is not mentioned at some point or another…
This was no different in the house I grew up in. Each Sunday was spent bedded into the couch watching my beloved Milan alongside my dad, and for as long as he can remember; he has been a Milan fan… That affinity to the Rossoneri was injected into me immediately, and we rarely missed a game.
In 1994, Milan visited South Africa. Ruud Gullit had just won the Ballon d'Or and his eagerness to pay homage to Nelson Mandela, who had just been elected as president, resulted in the club spending some time here during their off-season.
I was only five at the time, so my dad went to Ellis Park by himself to witness our team in action. Since then, I have been longing for the day they return to South Africa and reignite that connection with the South African audience.
While I am South African, my Italian heritage has played a massive influence in my life and my love for the sport, and, of course, my career. It is because of my upbringing that I opted to pursue football journalism as an occupation, and I couldn't be more proud.
Hope you all had a blessed Heritage Day.