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Retiring Pisanu has no regrets

Looking ahead... Andrea Pisanu intends to take up coaching after deciding to retire from football. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Looking ahead... Andrea Pisanu intends to take up coaching after deciding to retire from football. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Andrea Pisanu will bring the curtains down on his career this evening when Sliema Wanderers meet Floriana in their final Premier League match at the National Stadium. The former Parma stalwart tells Kevin Azzopardi that he is happy with what he has achieved in his career despite his injury torment.

In his prime, Andrea Pisanu was regarded as one of the most talented players in the Serie A.

His form at the time fuelled reports that Pisanu, who signed for Parma in 2004, was on the verge of earning an Italy call-up only for his hopes to be scuppered by a serious knee injury.

The Sardinia-born playmaker has shown great resilience in his attempts to put his career back on track, undergoing no fewer than six excruciating operations, but his battered limbs have made it impossible for him to continue.

Pisanu, 33, will bid adieu to football this evening when Sliema, his club since last summer, take on Old Firm rivals Floriana in their last league match this season.

For a player who has turned out for clubs like Parma, Bologna, Verona and Montreal Impact in Canada, the prospect of ending his career in an unglamorous league was probably unthinkable but the down-to-earth Pisanu has no regrets about joining Sliema.

Happy times... Andrea Pisanu (left) during his successful spell with Parma.Happy times... Andrea Pisanu (left) during his successful spell with Parma.

“I must admit that, initially, I was rather sceptical about playing here but Malta is a country I’ve grown to like,” Pisanu said.

“I’m thinking of staying here for another year. In June, I’m starting the UEFA A coaching course in Coverciano and, once I have completed that, my aim is to work with young players.

“With regards to the Premier League, one may think that it is inferior to other championships in Europe.

“Granted, it’s not the best league but I think that the top four to five teams in the country are, more or less, of the same level as Lega Pro clubs. Their standard is quite good.”

The lack of a professional set-up in local football must have come as a shock for Pisanu.

Although he has adapted to the peculiarities of the Maltese game, he believes that the situation will only improve if clubs start thinking long term.

“For starters, you need to put the right people in the right jobs,” Pisanu observed.

“It’s important that clubs create a structure and employ qualified people, such as sports director, team manager, administrator and coaches, as that gives you added value.

“From what I’ve seen, it’s important for Maltese clubs to plan for the next two to three years rather than set short-term targets like qualifying for the Europa League.

“I’m confident that, with the right approach, a club like Sliema can challenge for the top positions in three years’ time and also groom a few youngsters for the first team.”

Pisanu’s final year as a footballer has been another up-and-down affair as his ball distribution and vision reminded everyone of the attributes that made him one of the most coveted players in the Serie A but injuries again took their toll.

Pisanu prefers to look at the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

“You can always do more in life but I’ve had a lot of problems with injuries,” he reflected.

“I’ve had six knee operations but I always tried to remain positive.

“After my spell with Montreal (2013), I wasn’t really keen on returning to Italy.

“I wanted to go to a country where my children and I can learn English.

“I received a proposal to join Sliema and, after some reflection, I accepted.

“The season was more complicated than I expected. We were not consistent in the league but our failure to qualify for Europe is down to various factors.

The decision to retire was very difficult as my passion and dedication for the game are not lacking but my body is telling me to stop

“That said, I’m happy with what I’ve done in my career. I have no regrets.

“I’m 33 and, when you think about it, I couldn’t have asked for more.

“I fulfilled my dream of playing in the Serie A. I was in the Parma team that reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in 2004/05 (they lost to CSKA Moscow 3-0 on aggregate).

“I’m lucky to have had all these wonderful experiences but, at the same time, I was unfortunate to go through so many operations.

“At first, it was very hard to accept that my career was coming to an end but now I’m more relaxed about it.

“I mean 17 years have passed since I began my professional career in 1998.”

Family priorities

Injuries may have plagued his career but they have not dampened his enthusiasm for the game.

“Football is my life,” Pisanu observed.

“The decision to retire was very difficult as my passion and dedication for the game are not lacking but my body is telling me to stop.

“I also have to think about my children. I want to be able to run with them, I want to enjoy my family.

“Recovering from injuries becomes harder as you get older. Each time you’re going for an operation, knowing what you have to go through during rehabilitation, makes it more difficult.

“Now I’m ready to turn the page. Until five to six months ago, I was not yet ready to take this step but I’m more serene about it now.”

The last five years may have been a constant struggle but Pisanu has many fond memories.

“I’ve had many high points in my career,” Pisanu reminisced.

“I will never forget the goals I scored against Milan and Juventus in particular.

“Reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup with Parma and being part of the team that won promotion to the Serie A were two other highlights.”

Pisanu had to show a lot of perseverance to fulfil his dreams at Parma.

“I started with Cagliari, making my Serie A debut against Juventus on Sept. 20, 1998, but my best years were with Parma,” Pisanu, who also played for Siena and Prato, said.

“My daughter was born in Parma. I must also say that Parma were the club that gave me financial stability.

“After Cagliari, I went to Siena on loan and then joined Verona. I had a spell with Varese before returning to Verona in 2004.

“Parma, who had been tracking my progress, were interested in me but offered me less money than I was earning at Verona.

“After taking some time to consider my options, I decided to join Parma.

“The first month was not easy as I only trained with the club but I persevered.

“I was determined to regain what I had lost and my efforts paid off that season as I made 20 Serie A appearances and scored three goals in the UEFA Cup.

“As a kid, I used to watch the Italian teams in Europe and now I was playing in these games and scoring in big cities like Vienna.

“Those were the days when the Serie A was home to many world-class players.

“I mean, if you look at the Milan side at the time, there was Dida, Cafu, Maldini, Nesta, Pirlo and Kaka.

“I’ve was lucky enough to play with and against some really top players, the likes of Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero and Luis Figo.

“Nobody can take that away from me.”

Parma crisis

Needless to say that Pisanu is sad to see Parma in such a financial mess with uncertainty clouding the future of the club who have been relegated to Serie B this season.

“Having spent seven years at Parma, it’s very disappointing for me to see them in this state,” Pisanu remarked.

“I was one of the players that arrived at the club soon after the Parmalat crisis.

“The situation then was also very difficult but we managed to turn it around and reach important objectives like playing in the UEFA Cup and winning promotion from the Serie B.

“Unfortunately, after that period, I think there was an attempt to make another step that was too big for the dimensions of Parma and the consequences are being felt now.

“I hope that Parma will relaunch them-selves and embark on a long-term project that can, primarily, restore the club to where it belongs and also ensure continuity.”

Pisanu may be putting an end to his playing career but has set his sights on coaching.

“I will stay in the game,” he said.

“I hope to be given the opportunity to use my football experience and knowledge to help young players who are willing to learn.

“I take this opportunity to thank those who made it possible for me to play for Sliema Wanderers and I hope the club can move forward in the coming years.”

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