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Watch: Hibs’ success built on team spirit, hard work – Sanderra

Hibernians coach Stefano Sanderra celebrates after a goal. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

For the Hibernians FC family Saturday is a day of celebration.

After months of hard work, the Paolites will be crowned as the new Malta champions at the end of today’s Premier League clash against Gżira United at their own home, the Tony Bezzina Stadium.

For the team from Paola, this is their 13th title success and few can contest the legitimacy of Hibernians’ success this season as they have been by far the most consistent side in the division.

Coach Stefano Sanderra, the mastermind behind Hibernians’ rise to the top of Maltese football, said that this year’s triumph was the result of years of hard work at the club.

Video: Matthew Mirabelli

“We are very happy to have finally reached our objective,” Sanderra told the Times of Malta.

“I believe that this is a success not only of the players and the technical staff but of all the people that have been working with us for the last four years.

“Winning this year’s title was not easy but it is the result of four years of hard work and we have been building patiently towards this success. If you look at the last four years, Hibernians was the only team to qualify for Europe each year with a top-three placing and that shows that we have been performing at a high level for a very long time.

“I’m a person who likes to keep a low profile and now we have the opportunity to harvest everything we have worked for. In football today, clubs are not ready to be patient and build something solid but Hibernians deserve all the credit for giving me the time to develop the potential of this team.”

Asked what was Hibernians’ biggest quality this season Sanderra said the great camaraderie that existed in his group of players was their winning trump card.

“Human values are very important in a dressing room and I have only words of gratitude for the players who always remained united even in difficult times,” Sanderra said.

“Here, we are blessed to have a crop of Maltese players that have followed me for the last four years and have always remained humble and close to each other.

“But I want to emphasise that this title success is not only of those players that played regularly but also of those who found little space but continued to train professionally and made themselves ready each time the team needed them.”

Hibernians started the 2021-22 season in remarkable fashion when they managed to reach the third qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League and were only denied an historic qualification to the Play-Off round by some controversial referee decisions during their return leg against Latvia’s FC Riga.

Sanderra said that while that elimination had been hard to fathom, that disappointment brought out the character of the team who converted that heartache into a positive energy which saw the team make a very impressive start to the campaign.

“Although at the time, we were not a finished article yet, the players had shown in their European performances that they deserved what would have been an historic qualification,” Sanderra said.

“But what impressed me most was the reaction of the players. Three days later we faced Gżira United and the team went on to clinch a 3-1 win with a very impressive display.

“From then on, the team never looked back and managed to pick up a lot of points in the first round which turned out to be decisive in our pursuit of the league championship.”

Having been in Malta for four years now, Sanderra has good knowledge of Maltese football. While he reckons that the ‘Beautiful Game’ here has made good strides forward, the Italian said that he believes that football in Malta can continue to grow if more investment is made at grassroots level.

“Every construction of a building starts from a solid foundation. For Maltese football to continue to grow it’s important that one invests in the youngsters,” Sanderra said.

“Maltese football has grown a lot in the last few years. However, I believe that if the authorities manage to take football to schools there will be a further development in the sport.

“At school level you can reach far more youngsters and once you lure them to the game you can further nurture their talents in youth nurseries. I am sure that if serious investment is made at youth level, Maltese football can reach even higher level of performances in years to come.”

Turning his sights back on Hibs’ title celebrations, Sanderra said that he is looking forward to celebrating with his players their league success in front of the club’s fans in a stadium that was built by Hibs’ legendary president Tony Bezzina.

“As I said time and again I feel blessed to have met people like Tony Bezzina and his son Ranier as well as Jesmond Abela, the team manager,” Sanderra said.

“Together we managed to bring important family values to this club that are based on hard work and humility. And therefore we are very happy to celebrate together this success that was built around these important values with people that make you feel alive and I have found these people here at
Hibernians.”

PLAYING ON SATURDAY

NATIONAL STADIUM
Birkirkara vs Ħamrun S. 16.00

TONY BEZZINA STADIUM
Gżira Utd vs Hibernians 16.00

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