From a simple helping hand to a long-term successful project. This is what it turned out to be Denis Guerra’s adventure at women’s club Raiders Għargħur.
The Swiss coach is at the helm of the Għargħur-based side, formerly Raiders Luxol, as he oversees the development plan of the girls across all age groups at the club.
Guerra’s introduction to the club was in 2015 when Paul Midolo, former president of Raiders Luxol, asked the Swiss coach for a favour.
“Back in 2015, I used to coach at my football school, Talent 11, at the St Catherine’s School,” Guerra told the Times of Malta.
“At one point, Mr Paul Midolo came up to me and told me that Luxol were missing an U-15’s girls coach.
Out of respect, I accepted immediately and there I was coaching this group of young girls at Luxol.”
This was not the first experience for Guerra in women’s football, as back in 2006 he was coach of a top-flight side in Brazil.
A lot of the Raiders girls who were under his guidance are nowadays key figures at the senior team, even though they are still young, and have also went on to represent the national team in different categories.
Afterwards, the team relocated to Għargħur where Guerra continued to reap the fruits of his commitment.
What stands out in Guerra’s work is the methodology and blueprint that he has on his team’s playing idea. Organised football with construction from the back, slick passing, exploiting space and creating goal-scoring opportunities – from the U-15’s to the senior side.
“Personally, it was simple for me to implement this idea on my first group because they were still very young and that meant they were still nurturing the basics of the game,” he explained.
“At the same time, it is not easy to teach new idea to players who have been used to a particular idea of football for 10 to 15 years, but nonetheless I still continue to prioritse development over results and that remains the main commandment of our philosopy.”
One particular moment where Guerra’s idea of football stood out was in their November game against Mtarfa when Raiders had made 585 passes throughout the 90 minutes. 12 of them, including a pass from a goalkeeper, resulted in one of the goals.
“I was very happy after that match because the players were starting to absorb and put into practice what we have been working on,” Guerra explained.
“This philosophy is helping us to gain positive results at U-15’s and U-19’s level where we are in the top positions of the championships.
Whereas at senior level, our girls are given the main platform where to shine and showcase their talent without extra pressure.”
Among the players that Guerra has in his ranks are goalkeeper Justyne Caruana, Georgiana Mifsud, Sabrin Blihi, Gaia Antonelli and Sarah Vella Barbieri who all played with the national team at youth level.
In addition, there is also Maya Lucia who has recently been called up with the national team and new signing Giulia D’Antuono, tipped as one of the most promising goalkeepers in the domestic women’s game.
“Traditionally, Raiders is not one of the biggest names and therefore we would have to chase and recruit players,” Guerra said.
“However, the trend has inverted lately as there are players who are knocking themselves on our doors to join us because they like our way and this is a source of pride for our club.”
Asked about his feedback on the women’s game in Malta, Guerra heaped praise on the Malta Football Association for its support towards this movement.
“I think in recent years, the support from the Malta Football Association has grown a lot and the positive results are helping as well,” he explained.
“When the senior national team coach Mark Gatt attended our training sessions, I was very happy because I realised that they really care about the growth of the girls across all clubs and that fills us with more motivation in order to continue and improve.”
TODAY – 20.30
Swieqi United vs Mġarr United
Raiders Għargħur vs Mosta
TOMORROW – 20.30
Birkirkara vs Kirkop United
STANDINGS: Birkirkara (9 games) 27 points; Swieqi United (10), Mġarr United (10) 22; Kirkop United (9) 15; Raiders Għargħur (9) 6; Mosta (9) 6; Mtarfa (10) 0.