27.02.19 Paul Gatt: From Lawyer to Coach
To many, he was known simply as: 'Pawlu'; others aptly called him: 'Dottore'. But for all intents and purposes, rather than being your stereotypical Maltese coach, Paul Gatt was often a humble and quiet figure - primarily interested in studying the rigours and subtleties of the game, while attempting to decipher new tactical and training methods. When discussing the game with 'Dr Gatt', one can quickly grasp the fact that football, to Paul Gatt, is not just a game, but a work of art. Swieqi United's media team sat down to discuss Gatt's past experience with Swieqi United, as well as his future plans and projects.
SUFC: Paul, thanks for taking the time to talk to SUFC Media. You spent four seasons at Swieqi United, so how do you sum up your time at the club?
PG: At Swieqi, you don’t join a club, but you join a community. I am grateful that Andrea Vella chased me when I was still starting out my coaching career to join him at Swieqi United, and I am equally grateful that the club also welcomed me back after I returned from abroad with the season already in full swing.
At Swieqi United, I always found a community that questioned the way things were being done and sought to find a way of pursuing long term goals even with the resources it had. This relentless questioning and ambition always drew me to the club.
SUFC: You managed to create many special memories at the Club, but is there one particular event that stands out?
PG: I was lucky to be part of Swieqi’s first ever competitive youth team and also a part of the rise of Swieqi’s U19 team, with three promotions and a league title in this very short time span. However, having said that, I am not fond of dwelling on memories. I do nonetheless cherish all the relationships I formed with every player I coached at Swieqi United.
SUFC: You've always been very outspoken and critical of the way we do things here on the island. Do you believe Swieqi United has what it takes to break the 'status quo' and continue to innovate?
PG: Football in Malta has improved - I still remember training on gravel pitches (which makes me feel very old) even though we are speaking about just 10 to 15 years ago. Coaches are also much more prepared and have many more opportunities to learn and invest in their coaching should they wish to do so. Where I believe Swieqi United has been very successful is in showing that clubs can operate as one unit when everyone has the same vision - growing a successful academy while still competing at first team level. The Club has shown that being professional is a mentality which must be demanded from everyone in the organisation, and not a figure on a monthly paycheque.
SUFC: Throughout your coaching career, you've always worked closely with young athletes. From your experience, what are the key attributes that can make or break a player?
PG: Wouldn’t it be nice to have an answer to this!? I would say that the one key factor which is essential is mentality.
SUFC: You've now moved on to working at the MFA's Technical Centre. Can you tell us something about your new role?
PG: It’s great to be able to work in a professional environment once again. The MFA is investing a lot in our project and the boys are improving immensely. The first thing we worked on was mentality and we set our expectations together as a team - punctuality, effort, respect and responsibility in every thing we do. Until the boys understood why leaving a dirty dressing room was unacceptable, we could do little on the pitch.
SUFC: What future challenges are in store for Paul Gatt? What are your hopes and ambitions?
PG: Who knows? Coaching is a fast paced job and you never really get to unpack your bags. I am lucky enough to have always had the support from my family, friends and colleagues to follow crazy paths - this is a luxury for which I am grateful. Maybe it is the folly of youth speaking, but I do not imagine ever settling for something I am not passionate about - love it or leave it, right?
SUFC: Swieqi United will shortly be celebrating its ten year anniversary. Can you sum up the club's achievements throughout the past decade?
PG: In my opinion, the Club's biggest achievement is that it has stuck to its vision through thick and thin. I believe that sport is one of the last places in which young players are still learning certain social values - we must fight tooth and nail to preserve the integrity and values of our sport as we are educators before we are winners, and better persons make better players! This is something which I believe Swieqi United has understood and which it must never stop fighting for.
SUFC: Paul, thank you for your time.
Article: Michael Calleja
Photo credit: MFA