New season, same objective for Qormi - survival
Zerafa says team approaching 2009/10 campaign with feet on the ground
Qormi are gearing up for their second season among the big boys of Maltese football but their objective is the same as last year... Premier League survival.
Their feat in retaining their status in their first season in the top echelon of Maltese football has sparked suggestions that Qormi may vie for higher targets in 2009/10 but Jesmond Zerafa, the team manager, yesterday warned of the perils of raising expectations.
"Last season was the most difficult in my career, both as a player and as a coach," Zerafa told a news conference at the Portomaso Casino.
"When Qormi secured promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history, many were uncertain about how the team would fare in the top division but we showed that we can be competitive at this level.
"We ended the season as the 'champions' of the Relegation Pool and that gave everyone connected to Qormi a massive lift.
"I was not surprised that we managed to achieve our goal. I also think that our successful bid to avoid the drop has gone a long way towards enhancing the reputation of Qormi FC.
"We are currently in our final preparations for the new season. I'm expecting another tough campaign, especially for those teams who will be fighting against relegation.
"As far as Qormi are concerned, we are approaching the season with our feet firmly on the ground. Our top priority is to stay clear of relegation. There is always a lot of talk about teams' prospects ahead of a new season but football is played on the pitch not on paper."
For the 2009/10 season, Qormi have stuck to their policy of signing experienced players on loan but they have also reached an agreement with Sliema Wanderers to make captain Joseph Farrugia's move a permanent one.
Qormi's new signings include Sharlon Pace, who played for Pietà Hotspurs last season, and goalkeeper Matthew Camilleri and Kenneth Spiteri, both of whom were on the books of Msida St Joseph last year. Jonathan Bondin (Valletta), Steve Meilak (Ħamrun Spartans), Ryan Deguara (Mosta) and Malcolm Buttigieg (Tarxien) have joined Zerafa's team on loan for one season.
Nigerian forward Alfred Effiong and Brazilian defender Ramon Dos Santos have been retained but Zerafa has yet to pick his third foreign player. The Qormi coach is currently running the rule over two strikers, Leo Citescu, from Romania, and Claudio Antunis from Brazil.
Experienced midfielders Keith Fenech and Massimo Grima have also remained with Qormi.
"Our current squad is younger compared to that of last season," Zerafa said. "We have brought in new players with Premier League experience and I'm confident that we can improve on last season."
Zerafa will have Vince Carbonaro, who was with Mosta last season, as his right-hand man while Mark Vella has been confirmed as goalkeepers' trainer.
Matthew Fenech and Redino Apap, the president and vice-president of Qormi, voiced their appreciation for the efforts of the players and coaching staff and the support of the fans and the club sponsors.
"It was not easy for a club like Qormi to avoid relegation in our first year in the Premier League," Fenech said.
"Our achievement is down to the efforts of the players, coaching staff, the committee, supporters and sponsors."
Fenech announced that Qormi's main sponsor this season will be portomasolive.com. Jesper's Danish Bakery have also joined Qormi's list of partners that also includes Kia Motors, Express Trailers, Alfred Gatt Autoparts, Snow White Laundry and Dry Cleaners, Twilight Sound Systems, General Soft Drinks and TeamSport.
Qormi will kick off their 2009/10 Premier League campaign with a match against Floriana.
On Friday, Qormi drew 1-1 with Birkirkara in their opening game from the pre-season Carlsberg Tournament. Qormi's second match is on Tuesday against Hibs, who opened their commitments with a 2-0 win over Marsaxlokk.