Ageless: Agius inspires City Published on: 08-03-2011

Ageless Agius inspires City
Kevin Azzopardi

Gilbert Agius was serenaded with chants of ‘C’è solo un capitano’ (There’s only one captain) as he left the National Stadium on Saturday evening.

Around 40 Valletta fans gathered outside the VIP area to greet their players after the 1-0 victory over Birkirkara propelled the Whites closer to the league crown.

The enthusiasm of the fans soared when Agius approached the gate of the VIP zone. Typically, the Valletta talisman quietly acknowledged the supporters’ cheers before heading for the team bus.

Ever the consummate professional, Agius rarely lets his emotions get the better of him but he deserved to be feted by his admirers after delivering another five-star showing that belied his veteran age.

His intelligent movement and composure on the ball helped Valletta in no small measure, especially in the second half when the leaders, weakened by the first-half dismissal of Jamie Pace, repelled a barrage of attacks from Birkirkara.

“It was a very important win for us,” Agius told The Times.

“An important victory not only for classification purposes but also because over the past few years, our matches against Birkirkara have been decisive in the title race.

“Birkirkara’s hopes of winning the league have diminished after this result and the higher the number of teams that are out of contention for the title, the better our chances become.”

Coming after back-to-back draws, Valletta’s victory over Birkirkara was met with euphoria by their supporters but Agius warned that they still have work to do to clinch the title.

“We’re seven points ahead but there are seven games left,” Agius observed. “The teams are very balanced this season and every game in the Championship Pool is difficult. We must continue to focus on the next game and try to get the points we need to be mathematically sure of winning the title.

“The fans have every right to be euphoric because our victory against Birkirkara was very important but let’s not forget that they were not too happy after we drew against ─Žamrun and Marsaxlokk.

“I honestly hope that this win also serves to enhance the fans’ faith in the team because they are very important for us. To me, the Valletta supporters represent half of the team’s strength.”

At 37, Agius is in the autumn of his career but his performance on Saturday made a nonsense of suggestions that the former Malta captain is past his expiry date. His fighting spirit aside, Agius was at the heart of Valletta’s best moves, including the one that led to their winning goal eight minutes from half-time.

Receiving a pass in midfield, the City skipper breezed past Andrei Agius before guiding an eye-of-the-needle pass to Terrence Scerri. The striker’s diagonal shot was partially saved by Michael Fraser and Andrade lunged towards the goalline to scramble the ball home.

Agius’s nomination as BOV player of the match was a fitting reward for his influential showing but the Valletta stalwart preferred to look at the broader picture.

“I’ve watched the game on TV,” Agius said. “I’m very self-critical but obviously, I’m not prepared to make my assessment public.

“I’ve had my fair share of injuries this season but overall, I still feel that my contribution to the team has been good. Although I’m not getting any younger, I believe that I’ve been helping the team with my experience, especially in difficult moments.

“I’m pleased with my overall performance and the coach (Jesmond Zerafa) is also satisfied. There were games I had to miss because I was out injured and others where the coach decided that I shouldn’t start.

“I accept that the team comes before the individual but I continued to do my best in training. My performances of late have given me encouragement to keep going.”

Despite his veteran age, Agius is still regarded as one of the most talented players in the Premier League.

With 119 caps to his name, Agius has already cemented his place in the history of Maltese football but his absence from the national squad in the last 12 months has left many perplexed.

While few would argue against the merits of having a core of young players in the Malta squad, age shouldn’t be a barrier if a player like Agius is still bossing games in the Premier League.

His long absence from international duty has diminished Agius’s chances of matching David Carabott’s record of 122 appearances (source: MFA website) but it hasn’t tainted his desire to play for the national team.

“The national coach has said many times that all the players who are eligible to play for Malta will be considered for the national team,” Agius said. “Thus, I believe that my chances are as good as those of all the other players, regardless of age.

“I wish to play for the national team but it’s not up to me to decide. This season, I’m focusing all my concentration on Valletta and our bid to win the title. Only God knows what the future holds.”

With Agius’s contract due to run out at the end of this season, calls for the club to reward the captain with an extension have increased in recent weeks. Victor Sciriha, the Valletta president, recently said that he was willing to offer Agius a new one-year deal.

“I’m only concentrating on Valletta’s challenge to win the league,” Agius replied to a question about his future. “The other things can wait.”

Pressed on his plans for next season, Agius said: “I still have a passion for football. I still have the motivation and desire to train every day. But, let’s focus on this year and then we’ll see what happens.”
Source - times of malta