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Tags:   Celebrities,   Football,   Skills

By Colin Fitz   -  June 28, 2014

Malta’s no. 1 goalkeeper, who currently plays for Greek first division side AEL Kalloni FC tells SWAG about his favourite match, why he is inspired by his grandmother and how he brushed off an infamous own goal to become an internationally-respected custodian.

What is your earliest sporting memory?


Probably turning up for training at Sliema Wanderers FC at the age of five or six wearing  massive white knee pads on the first day. Our family had just moved back from the UK and I didn't know much about football back then. I was quite a round kid, very clumsy and uncoordinated. As you can imagine I felt rather out of place.


When did you realise you would become a professional footballer?


It was my mission ever since the age of 14 when I saw that I was good at what I did. I always put in the extra hours and worked really hard to reach my target.


How much training do you require to maintain the level you’re at?


Obviously training with the team varies between pre-season and the actual season itself. All coaches have different training styles and philosophies, but as a professional I have to calculate the rate myself. On average during the season we would train once every day for about two hours per session with Wednesday being the only day where we would do a double session one hour in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.


What have you had to give up to be successful at your sport?


A social life! I live abroad so I’ve had to leave my friends and family behind to achieve my goals. It’s worth it though. I take a lot of pride in what I do.  


What event do you enjoy participating in most?


Well currently I play in the Greek Super League. It’s a top level league and is highly recognized around Europe. There are great stadiums, amazing fans and a buzzing atmosphere in more or less every game. The Greeks go crazy for their domestic championship so the hype is massive.


What are your proudest sporting achievements?


I played with Valletta FC for five years and won everything Maltese football has to offer. It’s an honor to be known as ‘il-gowler tal-Belt’. After that I signed for a club in Cyprus. In the beginning I wasn't even sure if I would play. I had doubts in my mind whether I could play at a higher level. I knew that I was good in Malta but elsewhere? Over time I made a name for myself and I was being called the best keeper in Cyprus, which is a championship full of Portuguese, Brazilians and Spanish. Now I’m in Greece and have also managed to make a good name for myself. The titles I have won are obviously all very proud moments for me, but being recognized as a top keeper in foreign, well-known leagues is something really special to me.


What do you think was your best ever moment?


I can’t point my finger to one particular save, but the best victory would probably have to be back in 2008, Valletta 2-1 Marsaxlokk... We were neck and neck for the title till the end. It was my first league title. We were winning 2-1, and in the last minute Marsaxlokk were awarded a penalty. Malcolm Licari shot and hit the cross bar, the ball came down, hit me in the back and slowly rolled along the goal line while three or four players flew towards the ball. Obviously it was that star player, Gilbert Agius, who got there first and managed to clear the danger. What a game though!


Any regrets?


Yes I suppose I do have a few, but there’s no point being stuck in the past. I work hard to make the most of what I have already built.


Who do you admire in the sports world?


Julio Cesar. A great, down-to-earth keeper.


And away from it?


My Grandmother! What she has done in her life is absolutely incredible. She is a woman who never asked for anything, was always strong but with a heart of gold. She has done so much charity work in so many different places in the world, and has helped so many individuals with disabilities, in poverty, you name it. She is a living legend. 89 years old and still going strong.


What is your most painful sporting memory?


Well once I did somehow kick a ball into my own net! The plan was to switch play and instead I made a horrendous error and the ball ended up in the last place I could have ever imagined. That moment could have easily ended my career, but I was strong and moved on. Today I look back and laugh. Thank god we ended up winning that one!


And your most amusing memory?


Once again... kicking the ball into the back of my own net. I don't think about it much, but when I do I smile and think ‘what the hell?’... 


Have you collected any interesting sporting memorabilia over the years?


I’m lucky enough to have been able to switch shirts with Italy keeper Buffon twice, once when he was here with Juventus and another time when we played against Italy in Modena.  


What other interests do you have aside from football?


I don't have specific ‘other interests’… I just drift in and out of different things that I enjoy. Today it will be boxing, tomorrow It will be motor bikes or scuba diving or whatever.


What are your favourite music and films?


I prefer the 90s grunge music generation to today’s pop rubbish. Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Nirvana, that sort of thing. And my favourite film would have to be Snatch.   


What ambitions do you have left?


I want to reach the peak of my abilities and climb the football ladder as high as I can. I’m 29 now so I calculate I have another eight to 10 years of playing professional football depending on how well I look after myself. I’m a goalkeeper, so its possible.


What will you do once your sports career comes to an end?


My partner Sabrina and I have a vision of a family-run restaurant, fishing, drinking Cisk, Kinnie and lots of sun...


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