INTERVIEW: ZACH MUSCAT
We speak to Zach Muscat, a 26-year-old footballer who was scouted at the tender age of 21. He has built an impressive resume in the sport over the last few years and is currently playing for Portuguese team S.C Olhanense
You first kicked a ball around at the age of 3. Can you tell us a little bit about your passion for the sport and how it has developed over the years?
That’s what I’ve been told. I don’t remember since I was so young and for that reason, for me, there has never been life without football. Every day I want to play or train or watch football. It’s become part of my daily routine just as brushing my teeth. Therefore I don’t really talk about passion or love for football because it is part of me, it’s deeper than that.
You played for Maltese teams for over 18 years. How did you end up playing overseas?
Throughout my career in Malta, I went to several trials abroad mostly English and Italian clubs, always looking to push myself to new levels and each time tasting true pro football, made the desire to leave the island even greater. Then came 2015, the year (or rather the latter part of it) in which I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had come to a decision that I couldn’t keep forcing local football and studies because I wasn’t happy. So I traced back and looked for any possible interest which was still alive, a lifeline which I could cling to. I had found out that officials at S.S.Akragas – where the U21 national team had held friendliest about 3 years earlier – were still eyeing my progress. I made it a point to let them know I was available even though it wasn’t going to be easy to leave but I was willing to do everything. A slump in their defensive game and penultimate position in the table aided the club to make clear their intentions of wanting my profile. In the January 2016 transfer window I did all necessary to leave my parent club at the time Birkirkara F.C. and took the first step.
Surely being away from home for such long periods of time has its ups and downs. Can you describe your experience?
The key word here is home – any place which a person feels comfortable. Nowadays I am used to the continuous traveling, the uncertainty of not having rooted myself anywhere simply because I am on a mission to succeed. The first months and probably couple of years were a different story. When you go from the same environment for 21 years to being in Malta for not more than 3 months a year, that constitutes a huge change. A change in lifestyle change in routine but most importantly the mental adaptations which must take place immediately. Of course I do miss my family – A LOT. I think of them everyday and often I get to thinking of how easier things might be having them by my side. But easier isn’t always best. I’ve grown to love traveling and experiencing new cultures. Using my ‘job’ to travel the world is something I never expected would be such an eye-opener. If you asked me this question a couple of years ago my answer would have been a negative one. Today I will say how blessed I have been to get to where I am, to have what I have. That place in which I feel comfortable? I’ve learnt to take it with me wherever I travel.
It’s hard to keep up with how much success you’ve had with Maltese, Italian and Portuguese teams. What moment, so far, stands out to you in your football career?
It’s hard to pick a moment from the success in the youth leagues with Pieta Hotspurs F.C, the local league and European experiences with Birkirkara F.C, the unprecedented accomplishments in fighting relegation with Akragas and Arezzo – against all odds, historical qualification of the Under 17 back in October 2009 and having the honor to represent my country at national A team level . However, I will recall one moment. One special, unforgettable moment for me. January 2016. It was the night of my first appearance in a foreign league, my first appearance with S.S.Akragas. We had lost that match 1-0 yet I was voted man of the match. I still have the cut out from the newspapers of the next day however it was not for this recognition that made it so special. I remember sitting down in the dressing room after the game thinking to myself “I can do this, I am good enough”. I called home after the game crying. Not because we lost, I was crying with happiness. The realization that I had nothing to be afraid of, that I could compete at higher levels, that all the hard work to get me to where I was, was truly worth it – that realization meant everything to me.
Looking at 2020, what are your main goals for this year and those to follow?
Yes I am grateful for what I have accomplished to date but I am not satisfied yet. I haven’t made it yet. There is no other direction for me to think of but up. I must work more than I have ever worked before to get where I want to. Where I am now is only a few steps further than where I was when I left my comfort zone. I still have a whole pathway to walk.