TURIN, Italy (AP) — Weston McKennie opened his first news conference as a Juventus player on Monday with a bit of cultural flair, speaking in Italian.
“It’s an honor to be here,” the 22-year-old midfielder said in the local language after becoming the first American to join the famous Italian team.
McKennie, who signed from German club Schalke at the end of last month, then switched to English and spoke about racial injustice in the United States, as well as being a teammate of Cristiano Ronaldo.
McKennie, who is black, has been outspoken about racism and led the protests in Germany after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The Italian league has struggled with racism in the past and McKennie hopes he can continue to do his part.
“In Germany, I committed myself to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. We want to take as much action as possible in order to change the situation,” he said. “I had full support in Germany and it’s great that I can carry on what I believe in here in Italy as well, as the club immediately showed support in my commitment.”
McKennie started playing soccer while spending part of his childhood in Germany. He is joining Juventus on loan but the deal requires the club to purchase his full rights at the end of the season for 18.5 million euros ($22 million), although the fee could reach 25.5 million euros ($30 million) with bonuses.
“The idea of coming to play here, in a club with a great history, immediately thrilled me,” McKennie said. “I got to know football as a child in Germany and when I had to choose between this sport and American football, I chose football, and here I am.
“There was no need to convince me to come to Juventus, because being here is a dream that has become a reality.”
McKennie can play any of the midfield positions, which makes him a flexible option for Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo.
He also believes that playing with Ronaldo will help him improve.
“My strong point? The recovery of ball possession,” McKennie said. “I talked to Andrea Pirlo and he appreciates this feature. We are on the same wavelength as to my position on the pitch.
“Playing with Cristiano Ronaldo, seeing how he moves and how he works will bring me great benefits.”
McKennie is also hoping his move to Juventus will help benefit the sport in the United States.
“Having the opportunity to wear this shirt, representing my country and bringing young Americans closer to football makes me proud,” McKennie said. “Juventus is an international club, it is famous all over the world. In the United States, shops sell the jerseys. If I can contribute to further growth of the brand, I will be delighted.”
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