Interview Jesmond Zerafa
When did your interest start in coaching?
From the day I started playing football, I realized that football was my Religion. As I approached the end of my career I started taking interest in coaching. In the beginning I started coaching at the Valletta FC Nursery and later was appointed assistant coach with Kris Manolov. This was the fantastic season when Valletta won six honours. Tasted success from the very beginning made me confident to be become coach.
Tell us about your first year as a coach. What were the results?
My first year as a coach, I started out with Tarxien Rainbows and I had positive results. From 2nd Division, Tarxien were promoted to 1st Division and in the following season won the Knock-out competition and ended up in the third place.
During my spell with Qormi FC, we were promoted to the Premier Division during my first year. In the second year Qormi remained in the Premier Division. In the third we remained in the Championship pool and also managed to reach the final of the U*Bet FA Trophy.
What is the toughest part of coaching?
When coaching one has to keep in mind that the players need to get used to one person and that is the coach. At the same time the coach has to get used to different characters of the players. The players are everything to the coach.
What is your philosophy about coaching?
I do not have a philosophy, but without doubt one has to be professional, committed and have values. If you have values in your personal life and always succeed, then coaching becomes easy.
Is football so important to you, that you intend to dedicate your entire life to it?
Yes. For me football is my life. Football taught me everything and I have learned a lot. In life one will encounter problems but you learn from them and that is good.
You are very disciplined, you work very hard, you have a good relationship with all the players. How would you describe your relationship with the players?
When I am at the training grounds I am a different person, I feel lucky that I used to be a player and know what the players are feeling. A coach can obtain much more from a player than a player can obtain from the coach. It is important that when I take certain decisions, I take that decision because I know that it is the right one and not because of the player’s name or face.
How would you describe your relationship with other coaches from the Premier?
I try to have a good relationship with everyone and respect all the other coaches. During a football match it is important that I respect myself as I am directly responsible for the result. I have great respect for all the coaches. I know the sacrifice a coach makes throughout his career.
After an important match, do you go home and analyze the result or what went wrong or you go home and relax?
After a match I never go and analyze the result. Experience has taught me that solutions can’t be sought if you are angry. I prefer let two days pass to analyze the match.
You grew in the Capital City what does it mean for you?
Valletta means a lot to me, Valletta gave me a lot when I was a player. My dream came true when I was chosen to coach Valletta, since I always wanted to give something to the club in return.
What is the difference between a player and a coach?
There is a great big difference. When you are a coach you are responsible of a lot of players. Whilst when you are a player you are only responsible of yourself. When you are a coach you have the responsible of a lot of people, especially when you are the coach of Valletta FC. What is important is that what you do is just and right.
What does it mean when a player wears the Valletta gear?
I think that it is every player’s dream to wear the Valletta FC gear. Each player that joined the Valletta FC, becomes more responsible. Valletta Supporters are unique and envied by our opponents.
You had great career as a player with Valletta, you are the first coach from the capital City that played with Valletta and now are training the team, how do you feel about it?
I feel very satisfied and proud to be the first coach from Valletta that used to play with the team. It was not an easy decision because I was respected within the Qormi team. They were the first to believe in me and give this opportunity. It was thanks to the Supporters that I am here today, coaching the Valletta FC. The Supporters are very important to me and I am what am because of the faith they have in me.
How proud are you to have become coach for Valletta FC?
I am proud but at the same realistic and keep my feet firmly on the ground. You have to be skilled and well-prepared to direct a team such as Valletta FC.
What are your main priorities with Valletta FC?
My priority is to win the championship. I experienced this when I was a player and now my aim is to win the championship as a coach.
The team lost the Championship but won two honours last season. What are your ambitions for this season?
My ambition is to win the championship. To lose the league twice in a row is a lot for the supporters. The road is long and winding but we will do our very best to win the championship.
Do you think that local clubs will benefit from engaging four foreign players?
If the foreign players engaged are professional and of very high standard, then this is good as the local player will learn from them. But if these foreign players are of the same level or even less then a Maltese player, then it is very bad, as they will be occupying the places of young Maltese players.
Have you have seen any remarkable progress in the standard of football played in Malta?
Yes Maltese football is doing great progress, but we should be more on the outlook for young local talent as they are the future of Maltese football.
What does Malta have to do, in your opinion, to take itself to a better level as far as football is concerned?
I believe that the formation of the Premier league should be changed because its not the ideal one. There should be more games during the week to develop the player`s tactics
Do you admire any foreign coach?
I admire all the local Maltese coaches but I don’t admire any foreign ones since I don’t follow any international football.
What message do you want to pass on to the Valletta supporters?
It’s important that the supporters are loyal to the team both in the good times as well as the bad times. The road to the championship is hard and we have to have patience with certain results. We have to respect all opponents and respect all the teams especially our team.
I never doubted that Valletta Supporters are great followers of the team and if they continue giving us support, the road towards the Championship will be easier. I would like to thank everyone for their immense respect, help and faith in Valletta FC, because without the Valletta supporters I can never win the Championship on my own.