No April Fools' joke! AC Milan links up with... Hello Kitty?!
April Fools' may have come and gone, but this really is happening.
Italian giants AC Milan have announced that they are teaming up... with Japanese cartoon character Hello Kitty.
While football fans might be rubbing their eyes and wondering if it really is an April Fools' prank, the announcement - which is a follow-up to one made in January at the Trade Show Hong Kong - was made a day earlier on March 31 and the club has not come out to suggest that it is a prank.
According to the Serie A side's press release, Milan and Hello Kitty rights owners Sanrio will join forces to create a clothing and accessory collection aimed at female fans.
It will also see Hello Kitty make... er... pitchside appearances at Milan's iconic San Siro Stadium.
Milan commercial director Jaap Kalma said: "Milan has always associated itself with Italian and international companies that represent excellence in their sectors.
"For this reason, we decided to join forces with a brand like Hello Kitty, a prestigious and important character, and what is more highly adored by young people all over the world.
"In addition, we’re thinking about organising other initiatives with Hello Kitty and our club mascot Milanello and we will see them together soon at San Siro with our fans.
"We’re certain that this character will be liked by the Milan fans and from this we will see several other interesting initiatives."
Sanrio GmbH licensing director Paolo Casarini echoed Kalma's sentiments, saying: "I am very satisfied with this collaboration.
"The idea to associate a female soul to a top level male sport came a while ago with AC Milan. Today, and with lots of female fans in the sport, the new collection has a natural target.
"A sports clothing line and accessories to all female fans will be launched from next September."
Understandably, most football fans - usually a pretty macho lot - were not taken by the news, especially considering that the Rossoneri, sitting eighth in the Serie A table at present, are struggling again this season.