After a distinguished career as a player and a brief spell as a coach, Andre Schembri is now writing a new chapter in his football career as the Football Director of Apollon Limassol.
Schembri, former Malta international with 94 caps, was handed this role back in June as the club president is striving to take this club to the next level.
After hanging up his boots last season, Schembri had immediately started to study for a career in football management and, afterwards he was recruited by Apollon to serve as a youth coach.
However, a call from the club president was enough to help him fastrack his development in high performance environment, as Schembri describes it in his new role as Football Director of the three-time Cypriot champions.
“For me, it was a personal shock when the president offered me this opportunity,” Schembri told the Sunday Times of Malta.
“Until last season, I was a youth coach and although the COVID-19 pandemic made it tough for me, I still managed to coach my players whether in small groups or individually.”
The term football director might lead someone to think that Schembri is in a decision-making position and can have his say on recruitment.
Although his position is still a demanding one, the former Malta player is not part of any recruitment board as that falls under the competence of the club’s technical director and scouting department.
“My task is to oversee and report to the board of directors the progress in training, evaluating the coach’s work while I also supervise the medical staff and the sports facilities that we have here,” Schembri explained.
“In addition, the president sees me as the ideal person to help players in the dressing room, in particular the foreign ones.
“Our coach hails from Germany so having lived in both Germany and Cyprus, I can understand both mentalities and approaches, and I can help to fill the grey areas when the two cultures meet.”
Schembri explains how the club revamped their squad as they want to lower their average age while remaining competitive on all fronts at domestic level.
He also revealed that he is trying to implement innovative systems at the club, including an Athlete Management System that provides the technical staff with further statistics, informations and details about their players.
“What I want is to create an evidence-based culture where decisions are taken based upon facts and information, and not subjective opinions,” Schembri added.
As the club is trying to implement a new philosophy, Schembri is the man acting as a bridge to see that the methodology implemented is on the same wavelength of Apollon’s vision.
Coming from a family of coaches, Schembri is striving to embark on that pathway but he feels that this role can serve him as an additional stepping stone prior to coaching.
“It was difficult for me to reject this chance since the club president respects and trusts me a lot,” the former Ferencvaros and Boavista player said.
“However, I think that my current position will enable me to learn how to deal with different personalities and cultures, and with other external factors that can have an influence on our game.
“It’s not an easy job but it helps me to get out of my comfort zone and grow within the football industry.”
Schembri, who studied Sports Science, explains how he always want to consult his opinions and options with others before taking any decisions, even if it concerns a topic where he is expert enough to have a final say.
An approach that Schembri hopes it can be carried down into the club’s academy even though the transition it is not easy for now.
This is because the senior team coach is German whereas the coaches at youth level are Cypriots, therefore there is a difference in the ideology of football at both levels inside the same club.
The former Malta player, who also played for Omonia Nicosia in Cyprus, said that since his return to Apollon Limassol, he found several differences in particular in the way the team is playing.
“Nonetheless, winning remains the most important thing and the other clubs are all strengthening their squads, especially since the top five teams enter into the UEFA competitions so there is a lot of prize money at stake,” Schembri pointed out.
“I feel that Apollon are on the right way to continue to grow, especially if you take a look at what are the club’s projects including the construction of a new stadium.
“There is an enormous fanbase and I want to leave a legacy as a football director as well, after leaving a good impact as a player.”
Malta Cyprus face off
Despite returning to Cyprus, Schembri is still following closely the progress of the Malta national team as Devis Mangia’s side have a crucial World Cup qualifier coming up on September 1, incidentally against Cyprus.
“Here in Cyprus, they are all teasing me about the game so I hope that Malta wins so that I can have the better off them,” Schembri joked.
“Jokes apart, I have been watching the progress of the team under the new coaching staff and I am impressed with the overall improvements, not only from a technical or tactical point of view, but also from an administration point of view.”
Speaking about the game itself, Schembri said: “Malta can match Cyprus and although the Cypriot players may be playing in better leagues at club, I believe that the Maltese can eventually win this encounter.”