The Malta Independent 19 November 2018, Monday

Life after football - Mauro di Lello

Domenic Aquilina Wednesday, 11 April 2018, 09:00 Last update: about 8 months ago
Mauro Di Lello in his playing days with the Sliema Wanderers colours. Photo: Domenic Aquilina
Mauro Di Lello in his playing days with the Sliema Wanderers colours. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Born in Rome, Mauro Di Lello is a former professional footballer now turned promoter/adviser to Maltese football abroad.

Since 2014, Mauro has been a consultant to Malta Football Association President Norman Darmanin Demajo.

The charismatic 39-year-old former defender spoke with Domenic Aquilina about his passion and his role in promoting Malta’s name abroad, in particular in Italy through his office in Rome.

“I started playing football in Rome when I was 7 years.  As you all know, football in Italy is just like Malta, it is a sort of a religion.  Then after 3 years playing with an amateur club very near to my home, I underwent a trial with one of Rome’s two big clubs, S.S. Lazio, where I grew up in the nursery and stayed for ten years.  

ADVERTISEMENT

“At 18 years I signed professional forms with the club. In 1996 until 1998 I spent two seasons in the first team with Zdenek Zeman and Sven Eriksson at the helm of the team. You can imagine what an amazing experience this was.  

“It was during this time at Lazio that I built my base as a professional footballer. After Lazio I moved around to other clubs in Italy, like Ravenna and Nocerina.”

 

Malta

“I was introduced to a person via the President of Ravenna who was a very good friend of former Pieta’ Hotspurs club president Edward Schembri.   

“I was asked if I was willing to join Pieta’ Hotspurs for a trial in Bracciano, as the Maltese club were having a pre-season there. The coach at that time was none other than Ray ‘Zazu’ Farrugia. I was impressed with their set-up and I decided to come over to Malta to join the club.”

“I arrived in Malta in August of 2002 and immediately realised that this club was serious. They treated me well; so I decided to stay until 2004.  

After two memorable seasons with the Hotspurs, I came back to Italy to play for Nocerina for a season. Then back to Malta with Sliema Wanderers, signing a four-year contract, before moving on to Birkirkara and Floriana where I finished my career as a footballer.”

 

Life after football

“Life After Football” was the next topic we talked about. 

“When I hung up my boots in 2011 at 34 years of age, I realised that I needed to move to new objectives, always in the football sector.  

It was during this time that I met Valletta President Victor Schriha who asked me to act as a club adviser. After 3 years at Valletta, and with this initial experience behind my back, an Italian friend of mine introduced me to Riccardo Gaucci, who expressed to me his wish to preside over a big football club in Malta. I came with him to Malta and worked as a consultant with him until he took the helm at Floriana as President.”

“Seeing Riccardo settled at Floriana, I met Bjorn Vassallo, the former General Secretary of the Malta Football Association who introduced me to the President, Norman Darmanin Demajo. 

“During our meeting in Rome we discussed matters in detail and how I could be of assistance and promote not only the game of football in Malta but also promote the Malta Football Association as an adviser. With things moving on well, I proposed to the President that we should open an office in Rome.”

 

Di Lello is seen presenting a Malta shirt with the Pope's name during his recent meeting with the Pope in Rome. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Rome office and promoting Malta

“Being a gentleman and a person who can see beyond, the Malta FA President gave the go-ahead in order to move on with this idea. It was here that I sort of became the Malta FA’s representative in Rome.  

“This was in September of 2015. I am very proud of our office. Here I would like to mention the sterling assistance and support I have received from Malta’s Ambassador in Rome, H.E. Vanessa Frazier, who has helped and still helps me a lot. We have done various projects together and for this I thank her.  It is all about promoting the name of Malta.”

“I always realised that there is a lot of young talent in Malta. After speaking with the Malta FA President, I proposed that instead of getting young national teams to play in the usual friendly tournaments, we should invite very young Maltese U-12 to U-14 national teams to train in Italy.  

We started this pilot project in conjunction with Serie B club Frosinone Calcio. The Malta team trained and played friendly matches in Frosinone. During this time, all the players were assessed both during the matches and training by Frosinone scouts. This is how it works. The best ages we are hitting is between 12 and 14 years.”

“After this tournament, Frosinone called and asked about one of the Maltese players, Romario Camilleri. This is how we want it to be. Five days during which all the Maltese young players are really studied in detail. This is how the scheme works.”

We talked about the other projects that Mauro is working upon and his immediate projects in mind to promote Malta and Maltese football. 

“Promoting young talent is always the talk of the town.  But of course I have solid connections with Serie A clubs.  Recently I was invited to promote Malta at AS Roma, Juventus FC, and most recently at FC Internazionale in Milan.  

“I have also had the opportunity to meet many presidents from various Serie B clubs during the past three years or so, so as you can see it’s always work in progress.  

“I pass on the message about Malta and how young Maltese talent can be beneficial. Recently we also brought over a very young football fan from Malta, after his recovery from surgery, to watch Juventus.  

“You can imagine how happy he was when this young Juve supporter met all his Juventus idols after the match.  

These touching moments make our scheme very special.”

His passion for Malta stands out when the Italian talks about the recent meeting he had with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in Rome. 

“I spoke with the President and told him that a meeting with the Holy Pope was on. The Holy Father was very impressed, so happy with the Malta shirt we presented to him with his name on the back of the shirt. These are the messages we are transmitting and working upon.”

Finally the usual question about why Maltese football has failed in recent years in particular at senior level.

“Maltese football is passing through a difficult period but in general has progressed mainly thanks to President Norman Darmanin Demajo, who has been the brain behind one of the biggest projects, that of artificial pitches distributed to various clubs.  

The Malta FA is always pushing to support local football and doing its utmost to become more professional with the aid and assistance of the various club presidents. I am sure that moving forward in this direction is the right way to go to see Maltese football develop further,” concluded Di Lello.

  • don't miss