Part One: Daniel Duarte

Part One of our three-part series with ex-Lincoln Red Imps and Gibraltar national team captain Daniel Duarte sees us talk about his younger footballing days, idols and more.

1) While growing up, was football you preferred choice?

Yes, it was. My family has a background in football and swimming, but football has always been my number one sport.

That being said, I’ve always been very sporty and sampled other sports growing up too. For example, a few of my friends played hockey and I tried my hand as a goalkeeper in a couple of games. In school, I played everything, including basketball, and won Sportsman of the Year.

2) At what age did you start playing football and with what team?

My first team was Gibraltar United. My uncle, Eric Seguí, was the manager. At that time, the team had some very talented players, including Kevin de Los Santos, Lee Thorne, Christian Hook, Jaden Tellez, Nicolai Bado, Dylan Moreno, and many others.

I think it was a U12’s team, but I was quite a bit younger than the rest of the squad and only played the last 5 minutes of every game. It was a great experience and gave me valuable insight into being part of a team and playing competitively.

After some time at Gibraltar United, I played for a few years at St Theresa, with Juan Chipol as the manager. Unfortunately, the team broke up, so I joined Lincoln Red Imps at the age of 15; and I stayed at the Club for the next 20 years.

3) How did the leagues work when you were a kid?

The leagues were very similar to what they are today: there were six or seven teams in the league, and we played two or three rounds each season. I do remember, however, that there were more cup competitions and tournaments back then.

The only big difference I can recall is that we played on gravel. It was a lot more basic back then, nothing as fancy as the AstroTurf or well-kept grass we have now.

4) What’s your favourite moment playing football as a kid?

One of my best memories has to be when I travelled to Amsterdam with the Gibraltar U16’s to play in the Holland Cup – it was an amazing experience.

5) Who was your favourite coach you played for while growing up?

My favourite coach at junior level was Juan Chipol, the manager of St Theresa. He had a big influence on my life; Juan didn’t necessarily have the best football knowledge, but he was an amazing man – humble and caring, and he loved every single one of us.

During my time at Lincoln, there were a number of managers that really helped make me a better player, including Andrew Serra, Luis Consigliero, Harry Casciaro and Denis Lopez. I learned a great deal from them all in different ways.

6) Who was your idol in Gibraltar and why?

There have always been very good players in Gibraltar, many of whom inspired me as a young kid. But I wouldn’t say that I idolised a specific player growing up. Instead, I watched and learnt from local players, always trying to improve my skills and get to their level.

When I started playing for the Gibraltar National Team, at the age of 16, I had the privilege of playing alongside Colin Ramirez. Colin is one of Gibraltar’s finest players and, after a few training sessions, he became my idol.

7) How would you compare youth football in your day to how it is now?

I think that in my day, kids were much more committed to playing football. We had football in us; we lived and breathed it – we played football whenever we could, at school in sports lessons and in the playground, and when we weren’t in school, we would spend all of our time playing football on the patios near our homes.

I remember that my friends and I would often have to wait over an hour just to play a game at Hargreaves, as there were so many other teams waiting outside to play. We also used to arrange football competitions against different estates, which were very competitive. Nowadays you don’t see a playground with kids playing football, which is a shame.

8) Who were the stand-out players from your days playing in youth football?

My generation had lots of good players, including the likes of Christian Sanchez, Lee Ferrari, Keith Ruiz and David Duarte, all of whom played for the national side for many years. There were also a number of amazing players, such as Wesley Martinez, Dylan Peacock, Gerard Asquez and Angelo Podesta, who were very talented, but stopped playing competitively for various reasons.

But the best of all of us was Nathan Bagu. Nathan also played for the national side at a very young age; he was a goal machine, he could score from any angle with both legs. He was also fast, had great control of the ball and helped St Joseph’s win their first league title.