RENDEZVOUS WITH... FOOTBALLER RACHEL CUSCHIERI
The 22-year-old striker has helped her club Birkirkara FC to championship and cup victory and has scored one goal for the national ladies' team so far. Next season she will play professional football for Apollon Limassol in Cyprus. SWAG salutes this dedicated athlete and wishes her the best of luck in this new phase of an already impressive career.
What is your earliest sporting memory?
When someone starts to like a sport, it's usually because a family member practices it or watches a lot of it on TV. At home as a child there was football everywhere at home. My earliest sporting memory is when I used to play it with my brothers at home. Being the only girl among four boys I didn't have any option other than to get rough with them and play the game.
What inspired you to take it up as your sport?
Football is the only sport I used to watch on TV. When I used to see players scoring, I used to imagine myself in their place and I used to have a feeling of satisfaction even though I was only watching. For that reason I wanted to feel the real satisfaction, the feeling of being in a team and making all the sacrifices, and of winning and lifting trophies.
When did you realise you would become a professional?
When I used to play with the young boys in San Gwann, I was the only girl there. Usually when boys are faced with a girl who wants to play football, there's a competition between them to keep her out because no one wants the girl with his team. In my case it worked to the contrary because I was a challenge for them. I used to hear positive murmuring about me while playing and that's when I realised I must be doing something right. But until a few months ago, being a professional was only just a dream on my bucket list. It's only now that I'm leaving to go and play full time, in few days, that what I've accomplished is sinking in.
How much training do you require to maintain the level you're at?
Training should be done everyday in different forms and intensity. But to maintain the level desired you don't just count the sessions of training but you have to dedicate your life to it. An athlete has to quit all bad habits like smoking and drinking, must eat healthy, sleep properly and more. Even if you train everyday, you still have to focus on your way of life because you can't be fit if you're not healthy.
And what have you had to give up to be successful?
It's difficult for people like me to manage our time since our life is not just made up of football. I wouldn't mind minimizing my free time since I enjoy football but the main problem so far was work. At the ground we're a team but I also have a team at work. It's a bit difficult to take time off everyday for training and so sometimes I used to train alone in the morning. It's not a nice feeling knowing that you can't join your team mates for the session in the evening but sometimes that was the only option I had.
What event do you enjoy participating in most?
Playing for the National Team is something that I always look forward to. Even though the results don't always come our way, the feeling is amazing every time you wear that shirt. We accomplished great things together and I'm sure that the future will be even brighter thanks to the young ones that are coming up.
What do you feel are your proudest sporting achievements?
We train hard and do loads of sacrifices to win. Even if sometimes on paper we have an easy win, every game has its own story. To win league titles you cannot fail one single game and so every three points are an achievement. Here again, playing for the National Team makes you feel proud since the coach is trusting you to represent your country.
What do you think was your best goal?
Goals in decisive matches are the most important since it's a do or die situation. But of course even though my name is listed as having scored the goal, I wouldn't have accomplished anything without my team mates.
I don't consider my mistakes as regrets but as lessons. Maybe sometimes I didn't give my 100% or I didn't take care of my lifestyle enough. But once you taste the bitterness of defeat, you fix your mistakes without even realising and take it as a life lesson since such things happen in everyday day life and not just in sports.
Who do you admire and consider as role models?
As a Liverpool supporter, the person I admire most is their captain Steven Gerrard. It's not just the way he plays, but the way he presents himself, leading by example. He makes mistakes, but we're human and everyone gives a bad pass one day or another. But still through good and bad, no one doubts his actions since he was always loyal to the club. Away from sports I admire all those people who make sacrifices for others, like my family. They always supported me when I won, and most of all when I lost. Sacrifices make up most of our lives because without effort you accomplish nothing. Some people make sacrifices to earn a living and raise a family, while we athletes sacrifice our free time but as least we get satisfaction at the end. There are people whose sacrifices are not enough since they depend on others. Such people deserve all our admiration.
What have been your worst moments in football?
Football has its ups and downs. Losing a game feels bad, but being injured and not being able to help your team feels worse since you can't do anything to help your mates.
Do you have a particularly amusing memory?
The memory stuck in my mind is from last season when I scored the equalizer in the decider match for my club. The whole game was uphill and it was coming to an end, and we were losing 2-1. But in the last few minutes I got the draw and so we forced the match to go to extra time. It feels really good having all your mates around you celebrating such an important goal.
Over the years, have you kept or collected any interesting or treasured sporting memorabilia?
Like every other player I try to gather all my cups and medals in one corner. I also tried to fill my World Cup sticker album but it's mission impossible every four years as I never managed to finish it off.
What other interests do you have apart from football?
When I'm not busy with training or work, I try to relax as much as I can. I listen to music, I have lunch with my friends or spend some quality time playing Playstation with my brothers or having a good chat with my parents. Sometimes like other young people I'm stuck to my iPad watching a TV series but my time is very limited.
What are your favourite music and films?
My choice depends on the mood and phase that I'm going through. I can go to extremes, from RnB to love songs. On the other hand my all time favorite movie is Olympus has Fallen. I like inspirational movies or any kind of true story. Even though I'm just watching actors playing a role, after I finish the movie I feel like I just met a person who spoke to me about their life. Even when I read a book, I start looking for the characters inside the book around me in real life.
What ambitions do you have?
My ambition is to keep learning since you never know enough to stop. I will try to always be successful in what I'm doing and try to never forget who helped me along the way. I can't stop thanking the people who believed in me from day one and supported me in all I needed. When I speak about support it's not just financial but also love and respect.
What will you do once your sports career comes to an end?
Football is in my blood and as long as I'm healthy I will try to stay involved in football. Maybe one might think that the only option is to become a coach but even if you are the best player in the world, it doesn't mean that you are going to be a good coach. I imagine myself going around schools and promoting football to little girls, sharing my experiences and trying to be a role model for them so that they will stay away from the bad habits.
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