Part Two of our three-part series with ex-Lincoln Red Imps and Gibraltar national team captain Daniel Duarte sees us talk about life at Imps, his move to Manchester 62 and more.
1) How did you find the transition from youth to senior football?
Throughout my time at Lincoln, I always found it to be a Club that was good at bringing young talent into their first team. They had an excellent way of doing this: the U16 team often played in the 4th Division with some older players, like Mick McElwee, whilst still playing in the U16 League.
As a junior, I also played alongside senior players; during this time, the Lincoln U16 team managed to win the 4th, 3rd and 2nd Division. I think this was largely down to us getting a lot of experience in playing at a faster pace and making stronger challenges with the seniors. It was, in my opinion, the perfect way of developing a player and essential for the transition from youth to senior football.
2) How was the support towards you whilst breaking into the Lincoln team?
Honestly, I have had unbelievable support at every level whilst playing for Lincoln. For example, whilst playing for the U16 team, I also played for U18s (who were in the 4th Division at the time), where I had the privilege of playing alongside player-manager Mick McElwee. Mick is one of the best players in the Club’s history and in Gibraltar football, and he supports me and every youngster coming up with a lot of patience.
I also played with the Lincoln Wolves reserve team, who were in the 2nd Division. The team was made up of all the Lincoln legends that had retired from the first team – players like Mario Vela, Francis Caruana, Joseph Payas, Adrian Pozo, to name a few. They were all very experienced players, and I learned tremendously from playing alongside them. At the same time, my cousin, Ernest Galliano, as well as Dennis Lopez and Daniel Bonfilio were playing in the first team, and these three helped keep my feet on the ground and my head on my shoulders. I can only thank those players that helped me along the way. A special thanks to my cousin Ernest ‘el Chori’ Galliano for everything he’s done for me all these years and without him, nothing would have been possible.
3) Lincoln dominated football in Gib for many years – how did it feel being part of that squad?
It wasn’t always a dominant side; it took the Club many years to build up an excellent team. In fact, the team played together for at least 5 years before we won our first league, which was back in 2000/2001. This was a special squad; we had players with amazing willpower and, as we like to say in Gib, with AMOR PROPIO, they were players who truly committed to their Club and the sport.
Dominating football for over 14 years is not easy. But being part of the squad was like being part of a family, and playing with family and friends makes everything much easier. It was an amazing feeling knowing that your hard work and your commitment was paying off. The closeness and support felt on the pitch were mirrored off the pitch too, whatever problems we had, personal or professional, we knew that we could always rely on our teammates.
It was a privilege to be part of the squad and something very special to me – not only for dominating football and winning titles but also because I knew that I had the full support of my teammates and managers.
4) What is your favourite memory in a Lincoln shirt?
I couldn’t honestly say what my favourite memory is, but I have a few that are particularly special to me. One of them has to be my debut for the first team, another is my first league title. Another noteworthy moment was playing for Lincoln in the Champions League, where we were the first Gibraltar team to play in the competition.
One other undeniably special memory of being at Lincoln was when we finally achieved our 10th consecutive league title – breaking Glacis United’s record of 9 consecutive wins. As well as being one of my favourite memories, it is also one of Gibraltar’s best memories and I remember lifting the Rock Cup, which was presented to me by the UEFA president, Michel Platini. It was an unforgettable moment!
5) How would the Lincoln sides you’ve been in compare to now?
It’s difficult to compare, especially when you are not involved with the Club. But, as I said before in our conversation for Part One of this series, I feel that back in my day we had much more commitment and put in the hard work. I think that this is what teams nowadays are generally lacking. Don’t get me wrong, some players are very committed, but it’s difficult to get a team of 18 players committed to a Club without any money involved.
Over the past couple of years, there have been several very talented players at the Club, most notably Roy Chipolina and Lee Casciaro. But this is nothing that we didn’t have back in my day. In my opinion, we not only had our Roy and Lee equivalents, but there were also eight or more players with the same quality as Lee and Roy and, due to the strength of the squad, but it was also extremely difficult to select the first 11 players.
6) What was the thinking behind your move to Man62?
Mick McElwee and Stephen Head had left the team and Lincoln was planning to become a more professional set up: this included an increase in the number of weekly training sessions and having to travel to Spain for further training. For 20 years, I was always committed to the Club, but I couldn’t commit to the new level of professionalism the Club wanted from me.
My dream was to play for the national side in a European qualifier, which meant that if I couldn’t commit to Lincoln’s training sessions, I wouldn’t have the same opportunity of playing first-team football and, with no first-team football, it would have been impossible for me to play for the national side. It was a catch-22 situation and we weren’t able to agree on the terms and conditions for my new contract. So I decided to move on to a new challenge and joined Manchester 62 F.C.
I decided to join Man62 for many reasons; first of all, I could commit to the Club’s project and it was easy to reach an agreement over my contract. Man62 has always been a Club that focuses on developing young players – very similar to Lincoln in away. Its squad has a lot of youngsters coming through into the first team, and I’ve always wanted to pass on my experience to local youngsters, just as I had received guidance and support from my seniors when I was a junior.
Signing for Man62 also meant that I could play one more season at my highest level: it was up to me to perform and impress in order to achieve my dream of playing at a European qualifier. Whilst at Man62, I managed to make this dream come true and I will be always grateful to Clive Lopez, John Charles Camilleri and David Ochello for giving me the confidence and opportunity to represent Man62 in my last football season.
7) How would you sum up your time at Lincoln?
It is impossible, to sum up, 20 years of my life in one interview. To cut a long story short, I’ve had a very successful career on the pitch, winning many titles and even breaking a record! There have been good and bad days; it’s been an emotional journey, a journey where I’ve met some great people, as well as others that have let me down. But, I have a positive way of thinking and like to focus on the positive parts of my time at Lincoln. This saying, I think, really sums up my experience:
There are friends, there are family, and then there are friends that become family.
8) Who was the toughest opponent you ever came across in the league?
Probably Glacis United, they always had excellent players like Kevin De Los Santos, Keith Laguea, Al Greene, Dylan Moreno, Aaron Payas, Peter Moreno and many others. It is a club with an extra level motivation, especially in defending its record of 9 consecutive league wins. Glacis United was a very tough team; a very difficult team to beat and we always had to perform at a high level to win against them.
9) Was there a teammate who you would always want to play with, but never against?
The first name that comes to mind is the legend, Lee Casciaro. I don’t need to explain what Lee does on a football pitch, his reputation speaks for itself and we have seen through the years the talent that he has. But Lincoln, as I’ve said before, has always had impressive players – players that humiliate you at training with ease, such as Roy Chipolina, Brian Perez, Robert Guiling, Pitu Anes, Dwayne Robba, Christian Sanchez, Graham Alvez and many others. In my opinion, the hardest games played were always when we trained together – on a good day anyone could be your worst nightmare.
10) How would the old Lincoln fare in today’s league?
It’s difficult to compare; we had a very talented team with very little resources and broke every single record in Gibraltar football history, and we did this with only hard work and commitment. With that hard work and commitment as well as the resources that teams in Gibraltar have nowadays, I would like to think that my old team would definitely be challenging for the league title and playing for the national side.