Edward Aquilina returned to competitive coaching just before the beginning of last season with Sliema Wanderers FC. Back at the club where he spent most of his playing career, he brought Malta's Premier League title back to the Wanderers after an absence of six years. Aquilina has now steered the team to the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round, where they face Danish side FC København on Wednesday. uefa.com spoke to him ahead of the first leg.
uefa.com: Tell us about your career path.
Edward Aquilina: My career as a player lasted 18 years, during which I won a vast array of trophies with Sliema Wanderers and Hibernians FC. I also enjoyed a stint with Pittsburgh Phantoms in the United States in 1967. I turned to coaching just after hanging up my boots in 1979/80, and coached Sliema. I had the privilege of leading them in a European Champion Clubs' Cup tie against FC Barcelona, losing only 1-0 at Camp Nou and 2-0 in Malta. After a three-year stint with Sliema, I accepted an offer from the local association to join the national coaching staff. I stayed there for four years before taking on the challenge of coaching Valletta FC in 1994. After four successful seasons with Valletta, I had to quit coaching for health reasons. However, an eagerness to return to coaching tempted me in such a way that when Sliema's president Robert Arrigo invited me to return to the club as head coach just before last season, I accepted immediately.
I always wanted to end my coaching career with Sliema, and aspired to win the Premier League title at the first attempt back with the Wanderers – a target which I achieved.
uefa.com: What were the reasons for this success?
Aquilina: The main reason behind our Premier League success was the fact that we won our crucial matches with our title rivals, in particular Birkirkara FC, who we managed to beat in each direct league encounter.
uefa.com: What have been your most memorable moments in European football as a player and as a coach?
Aquilina: As a player, I still look back upon three crucial European goals that I scored for Sliema, and which remain vivid in my mind. I scored the first goal in our 4-0 home win against ÍA Akranes of Iceland. Then I managed a double in Sliema's 2-1 home win against Finland's FC TPS Turku. As a coach with Sliema, the narrow 1-0 defeat at Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium will always remain a match to remember.
uefa.com: Do you believe that at some point in time, a Maltese coach could coach a foreign side?
Aquilina: I honestly feel that coaching in Malta has improved a lot. Our local coaches can now benefit from the introduction of general coaching courses at top level, involving leading foreign coaches who are brought over by the association with UEFA's help. These coaches give the locals the chance to talk things over in depth and learn from their vast experience. Yes, I believe that coaching has progressed immensely. I cannot really see a Maltese coach taking up the post of head coach of a foreign team at the moment. But, of course, everything is possible in life.
uefa.com: What are your future ambitions at this point?
Aquilina: At this point, I do not pursue any particular ambitions in my career. I have won all the major silverware in Maltese football, but in top-level football you have got to keep on winning – the matches that you have already won are not enough...
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