Sorry, I know Inter did not go Dutch, says Thohir

Inter Milan chairman Erick Thohir yesterday apologised to the Italian football club's supporters after a gaffe he made earlier this month was picked up and reported last week.

Speaking to The Straits Times in a phone interview from China where he was attending meetings, the Indonesian businessman said: "I would like to apologise to all fans of Inter. What I meant to say is German trio. It was a slip of the tongue, which is not an excuse."

During that television interview with Indonesia's Metronews, Thohir was asked why he invested in Inter in 2013.

He explained that he had been a fan since "they bought the Dutch trio", a reference to AC Milan's fabled line-up of Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten, who joined Inter's famous arch-rivals in the 1980s.

Thohir, who is also the owner of Major League Soccer franchise DC United, was actually referring to the German trio of Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann when he made his comment.

"Buying a football club isn't just a matter of business - you have to love that team," he said then. "I've been an Inter fan since they bought the Dutch trio, and then Ronaldo's arrival.

"But I want to thank president (Massimo) Moratti for giving me the opportunity to become the club's first foreign president."

Yesterday, he explained his error, saying it was a slip of the tongue.

"The interview was done on Aug 17 in Jakarta, one day before we held our Asian Games countdown. There was a lot of pressure and I had a lot on my mind," said Thohir.

"That caused the slip of the tongue and I would like to apologise to the fans. I know the difference between German and Dutch players.

"Inter never had a Dutch trio."

Thohir bought a majority stake in the Serie A side in 2013 and in June last year sold part of that stake to China's Suning Holdings Group.

He remains chairman of the 18-time Italian league champions.

He is also the chairman of the Indonesia Asian Games Organising Committee.

The country will host the 18th Asiad in Jakarta and Palembang next year from Aug 18 to Sept 2.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2017, with the headline 'Sorry, I know Inter did not go Dutch, says Thohir'. Print Edition | Subscribe