Briffa: savours title clincher Published on: 20-04-2011
Briffa savours title clincherAfter almost three years of waiting, Valletta have finally put their hands on the Premier League trophy as a 1-0 defeat of Marsaxlokk on Sunday earned the Citizens their 18th win of the season, opening a 12-point gap on their nearest rivals with three matches to go.
A moment of brilliance from Roderick Briffa provided the Citizens with the breakthrough that sealed the club’s 20th championship in history. The clock marked 52 minutes when Briffa ran through to meet Ryan Fenech’s inviting pass before chipping the ball over the goalkeeper and into the net.
For Briffa this was his third goal in the last two matches, following his brace in the 5-0 rout of Ħamrun Spartans the previous week. Given the significance of the occasion, he has no doubt that Sunday’s goal will remain as one of the most memorable moments in his career.
“To get the goal that gives your team the league title is something we all dream of,” the 29-year-old told The Times.
“It was a great goal with double significance as it earned the club the 20th league championship and a second star on our badge as from next season.
“Winning the championship was our main objective this season so we all had a part to play in that. The team is still unbeaten and now we want to crown this success by finishing without a defeat. There weren’t too many teams achieving this so that’s double motivation for us now in our remaining three matches.”
For Briffa, this was his third league success after forming part of Birkirkara’s title-winning sides of 2000 and 2006.
He joined Valletta from Sliema Wanderers in 2008 but since then the Citizens were eclipsed on successive years by Hibernians (2009) and Birkirkara (2010) to the championship, much to the frustration of the club and president Victor Sciriha, in particular, who had spent so heavily in the transfer market to make the team a formidable force in the Premier League.
Briffa admitted that the upset of the previous two seasons had spurred the players to reach the ‘promised land’ this time round.
“We practically threw the previous two league titles away,” Briffa conceded.
“Our president had invested so heavily in the squad to keep the team at the top but we failed to deliver. Others might have given up hope but instead we were convinced to persist in our goal.”
Success did not depend on one or two individuals alone. Foot-ball is all about teamwork.
“The arrival of coach Jesmond Zerafa and Leonard Farrugia played a key role in our success this season,” Briffa added.
“They instilled a strong bond between the players and the coaching staff and that was the secret behind our success. We stayed together and overcame all adversities, especially when things weren’t going our way.”
Now that the league title is secured, Briffa says the team have no plans to rest on their laurels.
“We want to finish in style and once the league is over our sights will turn on the FA Trophy which we won last year,” Briffa remarked.
“The Double would be a perfect gift to the fans but for this club the long-term plan is to avoid early elimination in Europe.
“The president has already made it clear that we have to start making more inroads in the preliminary rounds. It’s a daun-ting task but we have enough talent at Valletta to accomplish something better than we did in previous showings.”
On a personal level, Briffa has had a successful career so far, winning virtually every honour on offer on the local scene.
One piece of silverware still missing in his trophy cabinet, however, is the Player of the Year award.
Talk is now rife that Briffa could take the mantle from Birkirkara’s Shaun Bajada, winner of the award last year.
“Winning the best player award is the ambition of all players,” Briffa claimed.
“This has been a very good season for me not only for Valletta but also for the national team. However, I’m not thinking about it at the moment.
“That is something the voting panel has to deal with. I want to keep playing at my best level for the rest of the season and then we will see what happens.”
Briffa also has a clear thought on his future plans.
“I have two years left on my contract and I am really enjoying my time here,” he said.
“This club offers everything a player needs to realise his am-bitions so I have no plans to move elsewhere. Actually, I would have no problems at all to end my career with Valletta.”
Source: Times of Malta Photo Credits: Ray Azzopardi