Naxxar Lions presented their new signings during a press conference at the club premises on Thursday.
The club went through a number of changes since last season as David Vella was elected president, replacing Dione Drago, while former assistant coach Stefano Grima took over as the new coach.
Naxxar signed Ishmael Grech from Mosta, Argentinian striker Emiliano Lattes – formerly of Msida, Birkirkara, Sliema, Marsaxlokk, Hamrun and St. Andrews, Italian defender Luca Lodetti – who had played for Marsaxlokk, former Mosta midfielder Armando dos Santos ‘Mandinho’, defender Moses Gnenegbe, Beninese striker Oussou Sidoine, Australian centre-forward Richard Cardozo and promising American striker Arya Haghighi.
Terence Vella moved back to Birkirkara but Andrew Scicluna and David Fenech will be staying with the club.
Naxxar president David Vella said this new season poses a big challenge for Naxxar Lions. He thanked former president Dione Drago as he said it was thanks to him that Naxxar were where they are now. He said that after the club retained its Premier League status, the club’s financial situation had to lead to some changes which meant that the foreign players on the books of the club last season could not be retained. In fact, Pablo Doffo, Gilmar da Silva Ribeiro and Jorge Santos Silva understood the club’s situation and had to move elsewhere. Doffo joined Senglea Athletic in Division 1 while Gilmar and Jorge Santos moved to Hibernians – the former on a one-year loan.
Vella said the club wanted to focus on its youngsters and for this reason, Stefano Grima was appointed as coach after serving as coach of the Youths team and Head-Coach of the nursery, feeling that his appointment would fit the club’s plans perfectly. Adrian Buttigieg was appointed as assistant coach while Jonathan Calleja is the new head-coach of the nursery and will be in charge of the Under-19 and Under-17 teams.
The Naxxar president is aware this will be no easy campaign, saying that even when Naxxar had more established players, the club just avoided relegation. He said that on the day, Naxxar could beat any of the direct opponents but in the long run, one would have to see, concluding that players need to focus on “heart, grit and determination”.
New coach Stefano Grima thanked the president and committee for showing faith in him and giving him the opportunity to lead the team. Grima said this was a year of transition from one administration to another and they tried to make this transition as smooth as possible.
Grima aimed not to make much changes in Maltese players and the only new arrival is Ishmael Grech who replaces Terence Vella. He said the club searched for players to fit in the squad in the right positions. The squad has a good mixture of experience and youth, including several Under-19 players. No less than twelve players in the squad are home-grown. As regards the foreign players, Grima said that they were highly dedicated and have integrated well with the rest of the players.
When asked about his objectives for the coming season, Stefano Grima said this will be no easy campaign and the team will by trying to secure its Premier League status as early as possible. He said he had full faith in the squad at his disposal, considering what they did in the pre-season. Grima finally appealed for support, especially during difficult moments.