‘THE PRESIDENT IS EVERYTHING AT THE CLUB, HE IS BEHIND ALL THIS SUCCESS’ – DARREN ABDILLA ON LIFE AT GŻIRA

Darren Abdilla has been a key figure to the success Gżira United have experienced in recent years.

The United boss sat down with MalteseFootball.com to discuss the side’s recent success.

“I am really proud of the club’s growth in recent years. I saw this club improving and achieving year after year,” said Abdilla.

“Although I’ve been involved with the club from November 2014, there are a lot of people behind this growth which work hard and have contributed to the achievements.”

Sharlon Pace (left) and Darren Abdilla (right) sign Italian midfielder Gianmarco Conti (centre)
(Photo by Gżira United)

Gżira featured in Europe for the first time since 1973/74 this season when they UEFA Europa League First qualifying round this season.

Despite beating UE Sant Julià in the Preliminary round, United eventually went out of the competition to Serbian side FK Radnički Niš.

On this achievement, Abdilla expressed his pride in the side saying: “It was an experience which I will never forget and passing through the preliminary round is a highlight in my career after we won both legs.

“I’m sure that in ten years the club will be decorated with some silverware, have its own stadium, professional set-up and knocking on the doors of the European group stages.”

Gżira United competed in the UEFA Europa League this season.
(Photo by Steve Bardens – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Club President, Sharlon Pace has also played a major part in Gżira’s rise to the top of Maltese football. The 38-year-old is a former player himself having retired from the game in 2016 after a five-year spell with Gżira.

The Gżira United President has recently claimed that he has a long-term plan for the club to turn professional in the next three years and for there to be a 5,000 seated stadium built with state of the art facilities as well as offices that will be also used by the University of Malta.

Discussing these plans, Abdilla said: “They are very realistic and at the moment we are laying our foundations to have a professional set-up and are in connections with foreign clubs to help us do so.

“The talks for the new stadium are in advanced stages and hopefully work will start soon. Obviously, this will be a boost for the club as we can reach our objectives with more ease.”

The Gżira boss continued by discussing his relationship with Pace: “Our relationship is very strong. We meet every day and speak about football all the time.

“We have a special bond between us and understand each other by supporting each other, especially when things are not going as we hoped for. The president is everything at the club, he is behind all this success.

“We are very proud that JEEP are our main sponsors. They definitely helped us from a financial point of view together with other sponsors.

“This field is left in the hands of our CEO, Edward Zammit Tabona, which he did a great job in attracting the relative sponsors.”

Gżira United are sponsored by American automobile company JEEP.
(Photo by Gżira United)

Gżira United played Italian side Fiorentina last month during the winter break. Speaking of the occasion, Abdilla spoke highly of the opponents saying: “Playing against a top team such as Fiorentina, was very exciting.

“What is impressive against such teams is the high tempo they play and the technical quality of their players. I believe that we gave a very good account of ourselves.

“I hope that such tournament will continue to be played and high profile names will visit our island.”

Luis Muriel of ACF Fiorentina featured in the Visit Malta Tournament.
(Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Gżira were playing second tier football just four seasons ago, however, this year United are currently third in the Maltese Premier League competing against the likes of Valletta and Hibernians.

The Gżira boss discussed this season’s title race praising Valletta and Hibs as well as other sides such as Balzan and Sliema: “It is a difficult title race. I believe that Hibernians, Valletta and us [Gżira United] have a small edge on the other teams, but definitely teams such as Hamrun, Birkirkara, Balzan and Sliema can win against everyone on their day.

“I would like to also mention the other seven teams which are very well prepared and have a good team as well. It is a pity that two of them have to be relegated.”

With his side being compared to Man City, Abdilla continued by saying: “Yes to a certain extent I can see why people compare us.

“The difference is that Man City had all the money in the world to do so, while we used our energy, enthusiasm and leadership skills to rise amongst the elite.”

Gżira United have been compared to Manchester City
(Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

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