We speak to Joseph Chipolina, whose historic, match-winning goals have taken Gibraltar to 2nd place in their UEFA Nations League group.
Did you have a good feeling about the match prior to stepping on the pitch?
When it comes to internationals, we know it will be difficult due to the nature of how we have been brought up compared to the other footballers we play against. This does not mean we feel inferior – on the contrary, it makes us want to prove ourselves more to the world. We always go out to the field with a positive attitude. What’s the point of going out there and not believing in anything?
Do you, or any of your teammates, have any pre-match rituals? (I have also been ordered to ask you whether you have a lucky pair of pants!)
In a way, we must all have our own pre-match rituals. I for one will always have a black coffee just before the game and will always place my left shin pad on first.
I do always try wear the same ones – yes! I have various of the same kind, but yes, those are the only ones I will use for games including my Under Armour shorts.
Which of the two winning goals felt best?
I can’t really comment on this as both goals have been really special to me. The first one was a penalty, and was my first goal since joining UEFA and FIFA. Yes, it gave Gibraltar its first ever win at an international competition, so that is one to remember, but then I managed to get my second ever goal at home to give us our second win in just 3 days, so to be fair both are really special to me. Maybe the second one slightly more as we came from behind in the game, and it was also on home turf.
Was there any question who was going to take the penalty against Armenia?
We all know who the penalty taker is in the squad. If I’m on the field it’s clear that I’ll take it unless the coach says otherwise, but for now in the Champions League and internationally, I have a 100% record – and I hope to keep it that way!
Where do you think Gibraltar will finish in the UEFA Nations league?
This is a funny question as who knows, it is all open and there for the taking, so I guess we will just have to wait and see. I am not a person who thinks ahead, I prefer to take it game by game and then at the end we shall see where we are placed, but for now I am happy with how the team have performed.
What significance do these wins have for the future of Gibraltarian football? What do you want for the future of the Gibraltar team?
Well, step by step. Yes these wins are very important, but they are important for the players for the tech team and for the whole of Gib as it gives us that little extra edge when it comes to confidence, and shows we can also perform and rise to the challenge.
I want all the best for the future of Gibraltar football; I want every young person who is taking part in this beautiful, emotional sport to enjoy and be brought up with good sporting opportunities. Now we are on the footballing map, who knows what the future holds for our younger generations? I wish this would have come way before, and so would many others who I have played alongside such as the likes of Kevin De Los Santos, Colin Ramirez, Keith Menea, Al Paul Hamilton Green and many other great footballers. So I just hope the new generations work hard and sacrifice themselves in trying to enjoy what they have in front of them, and also try make a life out of it.
What is your trademark celebration? How did it come about?
Well this is a funny one! I normally get down on one knee facing the Rock and point as if I was shooting an arrow towards it. I do this basically to let everyone know where we come from, and how strong we are for such a small population.
What has the new coach brought to the team? What effect has he had on the overall morale?
I think the results speak for themselves. He gives us a great deal of motivation and also psychologically feeds us positivity and information which will get us going. He has learnt the history of Gibraltar and has kept on telling us on how our families have suffered on many occasions, whether it being the evacuation or the time when the border was closed, how they had to fight and struggled to have us here today. All we have is thanks to how strong they were, and every time we go out on that field we make it a battle to show how much we appreciate what they left behind for us. We basically leave our skins out on that ground to show our appreciation for what they did. I think he is a great motivator; the team really needed a good lift up in morale and confidence, and he has managed to do so.
How do you feel about (technically) being 4 wins away from a place in the Euros?!
I can assure you if you go out to the streets and ask anyone if they thought we would be here today where we are, they would all turn around and say ‘not a chance’. But here we are, and we can only keep improving by putting in the work and training hard and doing as best as we can. Our dreams are to try get as far as we can. Who knows? Dreams are there for you to dream about; no one can control them, so this is what we are all doing – dreaming of things that we hope will come, if not now, then in the following generations. But if we do not dream then there is no point in participating in anything, as you don’t have a goal in mind.
What is your every day job role? How does this affect your role as a footballer?
Currently I am working at HMP Prison Service. So I am on a daily basis dealing with inmates and other work duties within the Gibraltar prison. This does not really affect my role as a footballer, as my colleagues are very helpful. Obviously anyone who has a job but then has to go and train 4 times a week has it difficult, as the recovery is not the same and the sleep is maybe not adequate. Even what you eat is not always the appropriate food, but we make do with it because most of us do this not only for a revenue at the end, but because we have passion for the sport. When you have passion for a sport you will enjoy it, meaning you will train and play even if you are unhappy, unwell, or even knackered. You will always find a way to go do your best.
Who do you base your style of play on? Who is your inspiration?
This is going to sound a bit weird but I have not really watched much football in my life until the age of 26. That’s when I started watching more football; before it was just the odd matches like Barca and Liverpool when they had good games. But if I had to aspire to someone, it would be Messi. He is just from another planet, and the most amazing thing is that he is really humble.