Hougang's former French-Italian rebel fighting his way back in the S.League

Once on the books of Espanyol and Chievo, Hong Kong-born footballer Antoine Viterale is now trying to make a name for himself with Hougang United. He sat down with Kenneth Tan to discuss his upbringing, his regrets and what lies ahead…

If fate had its way, Viterale could have been coming up against the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Cristiano Ronaldo, or Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain.

Three years ago, the French-Italian youngster accepted an offer to join Chievo Verona’s Primavera (second) team in Italy, having previously spent time with La Liga side Espanyol’s Juvenil B (under-17) outfit.

I didn’t realise at that time I had a golden opportunity in my hands and it’s completely different now

He wasn’t able to settle in Italy and parted ways with Chievo after just one year and has naturally pondered what could have been if he had done things differently.

“It was kind of a disaster on my part and I had a little regret there,” Viterale told FourFourTwo. “I had a very hot head as a young player and I should have been more disciplined both on and off the pitch.

“On the pitch, I remember if the coach said something to me, I would ignore him or respond back in a bad way. If my teammates didn’t pass me the ball, I would shout at them and start fights.

“Off the pitch I was living alone so I would go out, you know the usual – girls and teenaged stuff. I didn’t realise at that time I had a golden opportunity in my hands and it’s completely different now.”

Viterale, who recently turned 21, has a good reason to justify his immaturity back then though.

Training during his time with Chievo in Italy

“Probably it’s because I didn’t have the guidance of my friends and family since I was young,” he shared.

“I was alone since 13 and made to do everything by myself. I didn’t have that someone to put an arm around me, give me a hug and tell me ‘don’t do this, don’t do that’.”

A football adventure away from home

Born in Hong Kong in 1996 to French mother Sophie and Italian father Giovanni, Viterale’s talent for football was evident from a young age, starting his journey with Kitchee SC’s youth academy from 11 to 13 years old.

He soon impressed visiting scouts and was selected to go on a week-long trial with Inter Milan’s academy in 2010.

I met (Mario) Balotelli and Maicon near the training ground, they would drive their super cars and say hi to the youth players

While he did not earn a contract with the ltalian giants, he got to play for Lombardia Uno Milan and Academia Inter – two regional teams in the Milan area.

From there he left his family to embark on a football adventure that would take him to Switzerland, Spain, back to Italy and eventually Singapore.

“That was where it really started for me,” said Viterale. “While I didn’t get to play for Inter, it was fun to be training near the first-team players.

“I met (Mario) Balotelli and Maicon near the training ground, they would drive their super cars and say hi to the youth players after training.”

In 2012, he moved across the border to join Swiss side FC Lugano’s youth team before getting his first big move to join Espanyol’s under-17 side the following year. A one-and-a-half year spell in Spain proved to be an eye-opener for the youngster.

“For me, that was where I saw the best football and where I really learned my trade,” he shared. “The coaching and philosophy of the Spanish game… I can still remember all the training, with high intensity.”

Viterale then chose to return to Italy, joining Chievo in 2014 at the age of 18 for what proved a short-lived stint.

He did get a second opportunity thereafter, securing a contract with Chievo’s city rivals Hellas Verona in 2015, but lasted barely six months there.

“I was injured the whole time and I didn’t play at all. My time at Hellas, I try to forget it,” he rued.

The Lion City comes calling

Not making any headway at Hellas, Viterale made use of the 10-day winter break in December to visit Singapore, where his family has been based at since 2010.

They moved over after his dad Giovanni secured a job with the renowned Fullerton Hotel.

Moving in with his family in a condominium in Katong, Viterale started looking for opportunities in Singapore

Antoine had made annual visits to the Lion City for the past five years, but this time he decided to stay for good.

“For some reason, I just didn’t go back this time round,” he said. “I wanted to be released, so I had a chat with the club and we came to terms to mutually end the contract.”

Moving in with his family in a condominium in Katong, Viterale started looking for opportunities in Singapore.

First up Tampines Rovers came calling in the 2016 pre-season, although a move failed to materialise as injury struck once more.

“I did some training there to get back into shape and could have signed for their Prime League team, but I tore my ankle ligaments during one of the training sessions and was out for a few months,” he shared.

He then tried his luck with Garena Young Lions.

[UP NEXT: Viterale catches an S.League break]