January 25. 2021.
Remember him? Interview with André Schembri
André Schembri, our former Maltese footballer gave an exclusive interview to FradiMedia.

In the spring of 2020, FradiMedia launched a new column titled ‘Remember him?’ In which we write about former football players of Fradi we’ve heard less about lately. It is not certain that all of our readers will know right away when he was in Fradi, but it is worth reviving his career, talking to him about Ferencváros at the time and what he is doing today, because of an important moment, goal, match, speech or event. Thus, we also interviewed Ernő Kardos, Paul Shaw, and Aleksandar Jovic in 2020, and this year Touati Meziane and Kenneth Christiansen.

Our latest interviewee is André Schembri, who played for a year and a half in Fradi in the early 2010s, in which he scored the most goals within the team and won a bronze medal. However, he had been acquainted with Hungarian football before, he was the “cause” of one of the most painful defeats in the history of the Hungarian national team, the 2-1 suffered in Malta, which he considers to be one of the highlights of his career, and his compatriots still talk about the success ever since. It was a bad thing for him to be accused of leaving Fradi for more money because he claims his entire career was aimed at the achievement of playing in the strongest possible tournament. He played in a chaotic Greek season, was a former teammate of Leandro de Almeida in Cyprus, supports a clown doctor organization and, if necessary, loudly attacks and criticizes the Malta Football Association or the political situation. Among other things, we talked to André Schembri about these, his own venture, Fradi’s best of 2010, lots and lots of learning, and his autobiography.

Name: André Schembri 

Date and place of birth: 1986. május 27., Floriana (Málta)

Post: striker

Clubs: Hibernians (2002-05, Marsaxlokk (2005-09), Eintracht Braunschweig (2007/08 – loan), Carl Zeiss Jena (2008/09 – loan), Austria Karnten (2009/10), FTC (2010-11), Olimpiakosz Volosz (2011), Panioniosz (2011-12), Omonia (2012-14), FSV Frankfurt (2014), Omonia (2014-16), Boavista (2016/17), Apollon (2017-19), Chennaiyin (2019/20)

Achievements: Maltese champion (2006/7), Cyprus Super Cup winner (2017), sportsman of the year in Malta (2010)

"THE REAL PRESSURE IS WHEN YOU CAN’T FEED YOUR FAMILY"

- You started coaching at your former club in Cyprus, Apollon Limassol, but you also have your own business that can be linked to football. How is your day to day life?

- I’m primarily the head coach of the Apollon U15 team. Unfortunately, Limassol was completely shut down until the end of January, which is why we can’t train at the moment, which is hard because I really enjoy my new kind of work. And with a half-English and half-Maltese partner, we created a company called Traainer the aim of which is to make the best possible use and development of the players' individual skills.

- As I have seen it top players such as Yunus Musah, also use your methods. He made his debut in Valencia at the age of 18 this season but already has played 19 games.

- Yes, we handle everyone individually, and the staff members in my company work at the highest levels. Some are responsible for strength development at Arsenal, others for nutrition at Tottenham, or looking for the most talented young people for Manchester United. The top players are also very satisfied with our coaches.

- You also recently graduated, studying sports science at the University
of Hull. When did you start preparing for your post-football life?

- At the age of 28, I started thinking about what I wanted to do. To some extent, this was an automatic decision, as both my grandfather and father worked as coaches. When the latter trained the young people, I always went and helped him, I really enjoyed it, and if we take it that way, I already had experience in it. I also started doing the UEFA coaching course, but I knew that wasn’t enough, I also had to do research, get a degree, so I graduated from university. I already have a UEFA B license, I am planning an A this year and then a Pro license. My dream is to be a professional coach.

- When is it expected for you to lead an adult team? 

- It will take time. Last year, when I started coaching, I saw that a player will not become a coach overnight. It will take a few more years for me to put my philosophy into training and gain the right experience. I also need to get a Pro license. I’m the type who likes to learn a lot, and I can only do that by “handling the equipment”. I can gain a lot of experience during my current job, so I can’t wait to work with full force again.

- Those who become coaches after playing tend to emphasize that it is a much harder job. Do you also like the pressure that comes with it?

- This really is the case, since as a coach you have to pay attention to a lot of people and not just your team, but your staff, the people who work in the club, really everyone who surrounds the team. And the pressure is part of life. Football is my passion, I don’t think I couldn’t handle the burden that comes with it at the end of the day. If you lose a match, you will be sad, of course, but the next day your life will go on the same way. The real pressure is when you can’t give food to your family.

"DEFEATING THE HUNGARIANS WAS THE HIGHEST POINT IN MY CAREER"

- As I’m guessing, it was not only an automatic step to be a coach, but also to start playing football, as both your father and grandfather were professional footballers.

- I think it’s in our blood, plus it’s not enough that the two of them were footballers and coaches, but even my uncle coached. I love seeing others get the most out of themselves. It’s not because of victories (which are important, of course), that I like to be a coach but to see the development of individuals.

- You are one of the most successful footballers in Maltese football. When did you realize that you were more talented than others?

- There were lots of other players who were better than me. What made my career stand out is my mentality. Because of my flexibility, I have achieved more than my peers. I left Malta early, toured many different countries, traveled a lot, which is not easy for a guy who grew up on an island. I had to get used to many new cultures and climates - such as the cold Hungarian winter (laughs). However, I was always flexible, which differentiated me from others.

- What was your first big football experience? If I guess correctly, we have something to do with that, too.

- Indeed, with my two goals defeating the Hungarians 2-1, I can say that it was one of the highlights of my career. Then after the match, the world opened up for me and I had a lot of new opportunities to play football abroad.
But it wasn’t just my personal peak at that match, but the entire national team’s. A team that had been waiting for their victory in the first serious game for a very long time, with which we made the country very happy. To this day, that match is memorable for the Maltese, as we do not win very easily these days. What’s more, if you defeat a country with a football tradition like Hungary, it really stays in people’s memory


Schembri’s goals at 0:28 and 2:48

"I ONLY REGRET ONE THING, NOT SCORING AGAINST ÚJPEST"

- How did you get to Fradi in Hungary?

- I was playing in Austria at the time and there were problems with my club, so I tried to leave. One of my friends, Justin Haber, was already playing at Fradi, we had the same agent, he recommended the club. I first had a rehearsal period in January. I first signed with FTC for six months, then we extended my contract by one year. My whole season was very successful, one of the best seasons of my career, I scored 16 goals and we won a bronze medal. It was a huge thing for me, as it was an honor to achieve everything in a club that boasts one of the most famous histories in Europe.

- How do you remember Fradi from that time?

- We formed a very united team. At that time, the English era at Fradi was over, a Hungarian coach arrived with Hungarian staff and players. The president, Gábor Kubatov, also came then, they started working on the development of the club, they seemed to be thinking in the long run.

- Who was the best player on that team? 

- Peti Lipcsei was close to forty, but his technique and game intelligence was amazing to see. But I could also say Dénes Rósa, Zoltán Balog, or Marek Heinz. Many good and experienced football players were in the squad. I also loved to play there because I was still relatively young, 23 years old, I had a great experience at Fradi, I wanted to learn from others who also helped me develop professionally. It felt great to be part of a legendary club.

- Do you have a favorite Fradi-memory?

- My two hat tricks, against Lombard Pápa and Vasas. I do regret one thing though, that I never scored against Újpest. 


Schembri’s goals at 0:09, 1:10, 4:40

- Why did you leave after such a successful season?

- My primary goal was to play in the best league that was possible for me to play in. Fradi and I had an excellent season, if I had stayed another year we might not have been as successful, I would no longer have been able to advance to a stronger league. However, the Greek championship, where I transferred, I think was ahead of the Hungarians at that time. True, I was unlucky because the Olympiacos Volos - which was a good team anyway, could have been in the Europa League - was disqualified. 

Many people at the time said I left because of the money, which also hurt because money never motivated my decisions, I always wanted to sign for a better tournament or club.

The apex was the Portuguese league with Boavista. For me, a Maltese guy, it was a great achievement to get to one of Europe’s very good championships. Of course, I still have beautiful memories of Fradi, I hope to visit Hungary soon, as I have not even been to the new stadium. 

Chaos in Volos

Schembri’s short time spent at Olympiacos Volos was definitely interesting. He played four European League qualifiers and qualified for the tournament by winning against Differdange twice (Schembri and his Hungarian teammate Zoltán Szélesi both scored). After this the club was accused of match-fixing and was excluded, the team sank to the Greek fourth division. Of course, the club could not continue to play in the EL either, and the players were free to leave.

- The period spent with Volos with the exclusion, the demonstration of the fans, how was it?

- Those were a really chaotic few months. I signed with them for two years, my manager checked the situation there, and then it looked like the team could stay in the Super League. Later, however, the team was thrown out of the league and the EL too. However, a good thing still came out of it, I learned a lot in a short time from my then coach, Javi García, who now works for Valencia. We also became great friends. Eventually, I was able to transfer to Panionios of Athens, with whom we performed well, so it was time to move on.

- Then came Omonia, where you played with a Fradi icon, Leandro de Almeida, for two seasons. Do you remember him?

- Of course, I do. He was an amazingly good player and also an excellent person. He always tried to help me too, it’s no surprise that he deserved the position of team captain. We had a great time together. I’m also following his career, I know he’s still with Fradi right now.

Leandro about his former teammate

"He was a very good and intelligent player. There were many Portuguese and Brazilians on our team at the time, but he was also very skilled technically, so it was easy for him to fit in. He played football as a kind of second striker, a shadow, who could move more freely, but he also appeared on the edge many times. When I got to Cyprus, several older players soon left, so I also tried to help the younger ones, the new ones as soon as possible, mainly because after a year I became one of the team captains. I talked to everyone a lot. But Schembri and I had an easy time because he was a very intelligent man not only on the pitch but also outside" said Leandro de Almeida, a former teammate.

- You recently wished your former Indian team a lot of success on Instagram, but on the day of the Barcelona-Fradi Champions League match, you also sent us a message with your photo from Ferencváros and “Hajrá Fradi” in the caption. Is it important for you to stay in touch with your ex-clubs?

- Each club has given me respect, they have become a part of my life, there are places where I have spent several years, so I try to stay in touch with them and their fans as well. After all, football is for the fans. We can now see how football is not the same sport without the fans. Even earlier, I watched the Fradi match against Sliema Wanderers, then more recently the clash against Valletta, and the CL matches were, of course, even easier to watch on television. I was glad to see that the team wanted to win, even if there was a huge difference economically compared to Barcelona or Juventus.

- Are you still in touch with Justin Harber, your former teammate in Fradi who is also from Malta? 

- Sometimes only through social media, but yes. He is also very busy, so we meet less often, but when I go back to Malta, I tend to see him.

"YOU HAVE TO GIVE BACK TO COMMUNITY"


- As a player, you have achieved the greatest success at Apollo as well as at another club in Cyprus, Omonia. Cypriot life seems to have been great.

- Omonia in Cyprus is just like Fradi in Hungary. Even the colors are the same, and both clubs have passionate fans. I spent four good seasons there and score more than 50 goals during that time. With Apollon, we won the Supercup and played in the Europa League group stage twice. I even scored against Atalanta, and thus became the first Maltese to score in the group stage of an international cup. 

- You’re still keeping that record too, and you were the first Maltese to score a hat-trick in a foreign league, to be exact in the NB I, in the matches mentioned earlier. Are you the most famous Maltese player?

- Not the most famous, more like one of the most famous (laughs). 
But being a good player and playing abroad are not the only things that make me known. I always say what I think. I have repeatedly criticized, for example, the Malta Football Association or the political situation in my country.


- How do they take the criticism? 

- There are disputes, naturally. Especially when you’re talking to people you don’t agree with. But the point is not the debate, but to make the criticism constructive and to start a constructive conversation. I am self-aware, I know what and how I see good in the world, and I try to convey my messages to society.

- How is the development of Maltese football now? 

- A year ago, new leadership came. I have criticized the Maltese Association many times, but a lot has changed in recent times, a lot has been improved. This was reflected in the results of the national team, we finished in second place, close to the first in the D League in the Nations League. In our first NL appearance, we finished in last place. What still needs to change is that as many Maltese as possible need to go abroad because our league is not professional. And neither can the national team develop as long as the players remain in Malta.

- Together with Apollon Limassol, you are supporting a Maltese clown doctor foundation, Dr. Klown. Is social responsibility important to you?

- Dr. Klown is a great organization that helps children who are sick and forced to recover in a hospital. The least I can do is help businesses like this with minimal resources and make the kids a bit happier.

I think you have to give a lot back to the community in life, especially if you’re someone who can make an impact on other people.


- You supported the organization with the proceeds of your autobiography. Why did you decide to write your story?

- I have always wanted an autobiography as I read a lot of similar things about athletes when I was young. With this, my aim was to help Maltese players who are thinking about a career abroad. So they can also learn from my example to achieve their goals.

- Fradi fans are always happy to read about former players who have been heard less about in recent years. Do you have a message for them? 

- I would like to say thank you for everything I got from them. I will not forget the matches in which we were encouraged by more than ten thousand people. I will continue to follow Fradi because the club has become a part of my life. And who knows, maybe one day life will lead us together again.


(photos by André Schembri on Twitter, Instagram, trifylli.net)

László Budai 

Cikkajánló

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FTC – Fehérvár 2-0

Easy win in the gold rush.

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