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Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011

First 'official' AC Milan cafe opens — in Nagoya


NAGOYA — The world's first cafe and restaurant to be officially endorsed by Italian soccer powerhouse AC Milan opened this fall in Nagoya.

"Customers often ask me, 'Why in Nagoya?' " said Arimasa Iwata, the 28-year-old owner of AC Milan Caffe e Ristorante. Even Italy doesn't have an officially endorsed AC Milan cafe.

After quitting his company job and negotiating with the team, soccer-mad Iwata opened the cafe in Nagoya in October.

The cafe, which serves authentic Italian food, wine and espresso, aims to bring a taste of Milan to Nagoya, he said.

"I want my cafe to be a place where you feel like you are in Italy in Japan," said Iwata, who has experience of working in a restaurant.

The cafe, decorated in the team's colors of red and black, has a number of items on display, including photographs and autographed jerseys. Its logo was designed by AC Milan.

Customers can watch AC Milan games, as well as the Japanese national team's matches, on a 100-inch screen. But Iwata said the place is essentially a cafe rather than a sports bar.

AC Milan opened a soccer school for children in Aichi Prefecture this spring, and Iwata hopes that by opening the cafe in Nagoya, the prefectural capital, he can give a further boost to the local area.

Inspired by the opening of the soccer school, Iwata showed up at the facility without an appointment in late April and started discussions with AC Milan over the cafe. All the negotiations were carried out through the soccer school.

"The Milan side was really cooperative," said Iwata. But the differences between Japanese and Italian law complicated the process, he recalled.

Iwata, who continues to communicate with the Italian club via email, plans to invite former AC Milan players to the cafe.

"Japan coach (Alberto) Zaccheroni is a former AC Milan coach. I hope he will drop by whenever he can," he said.

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