Interview with Lincoln Red Imps player Lee Casciaro: "Winning 1-0 against Celtic is very special"
No one in their right mind could’ve predicted that Brendan Rodgers would lose his first game as Celtic manager against Gibraltarian minnows Lincoln Red Imps. But lose they did, and now Rodgers will be under no illusions as to the task that faces him.
Lee Casciaro had already made a name for himself after scoring Gibraltar’s first ever competitive goal back in March 2015, but the winner against the Scottish Champions will go down in folklore.
He took the time to talk to Jason Pettigrove for Sportskeeda...
It’s been quite the year for you, hasn’t it?! An equaliser against Scotland in March 2015 and then the winner against Celtic in the Champions League, a result that many have said is Celtic’s worst ever. As a part-time player, tell me how you prepare for games of that magnitude…
Well, really we are like any other club, just that we have to combine our work with football. We have been training for just over a month daily for 2 hours a day and played a couple of friendlies. We still have a lot to learn but getting that win over Celtic has given us more motivation for the second leg.
Can you describe your feelings and emotions in the aftermath of those two strikes, both seismic in their own way for Gibraltarian football and for you personally?
Really good to get the goals for both Gibraltar and Lincoln. Obviously, with Gibraltar we lost 6-1, so for me personally being a footballer it didn't feel so special as we still lost the game. This time around winning 1-0 against Celtic is much more special.
Probably the highlight of my career as a footballer.
As a Police officer on the island, does that take precedence over your football? How often do you train/play for your club side Lincoln Red Imps?
My full-time job is a police officer, then football is my part time job, we normally train everyday day of the week from 7-9pm, and play once a week.
You’ve been with the Imps for 10 years now. What changes have you seen at the club in that time and for you personally, how would you say your game has improved?
I have played all my life for Lincoln but being accepted into UEFA has brought in money to Gibraltar clubs – especially Lincoln as we have won the league for 14 years and that qualifies us to play Champions League football.
It’s a more professional set up now and with the money involved we train harder. More foreigners are coming to Gibraltar and the standard of football has therefore gone up.
Were there any thoughts of winning at all in the dressing room before the Celtic game?
I answered a journalist before the match and told him that the weather here in Gibraltar - July over 30 degrees – the pitch being an artificial pitch it would benefit us more than them and with a bit of luck, we would give them a game.
Obviously, I didn't think we were going to win but at least still be in the tie for the 2nd leg. A 1-0 win wasn't one I would have imagined.
‘David v Goliath’ clashes are almost guaranteed to capture the public’s imagination, especially when the smaller sides give a good account of themselves. Where do you think the game against Celtic was won, and do you agree with Brendan Rodgers’ assessment that his team have nothing to be embarrassed about?
Defensively we were very solid and made them have the ball and try and break us down. We planned to hit them on the break. That's how the goal came. I don't think he should be embarrassed because he still has a second leg to go and at home. I still believe they are the favourites to go through.
Can your artificial pitch be used as an excuse or should the SPL team know better? Did they underestimate you or was it 90 minutes where everything that could go right for you and the team, did?
They can use it as an excuse but really they are full-time professional players, the ball is the same one they use, so i think its a bit lame to talk about the condition of the pitch. They could have underestimated us but they'll do their homework for the second leg that for sure.
You’re 34 years of age now. Is this the highlight of your player career?
Yes, like I said, it doesn't get any big than this, especially for Gibraltar and at our level at the moment.
It’s inevitable you’ll be defined by your two headline-grabbing goals. Is that fair? Is there more about your game that you’d prefer to be remembered for?
Well once I get my boots on and walk onto the pitch doesn't matter who I am playing against because I will give 110% and that's my greatest attribute.
Your siblings Kyle and Ryan also play for the Imps. I’m not aware of three players from the same family playing at the same time in a football team. How do you find the relationships work on the football field and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
We get along really well, on the field we try to help each other out. Obviously, we know each other's weakness and strengths so we try to exploit it for the benefit of the team.
Do you plan to play on for much longer and have you achieved all you wanted in the game to this point?
Gibraltar has just started in UEFA and now in FIFA so I feel like I have been reborn. Yes at my age most professionals are looking to retire but I feel great and hopefully will achieve much more if my body allows it obviously.
Just like Leicester’s fantastic Premier League winning campaign last season, the result against Celtic proves, beyond doubt, that if you work hard and believe, then anything is possible. Therefore, what advice would you give to any footballers aspiring for bigger and better things, whatever stage they may be at in their careers?
Really it’s just if you focus enough and you are determined you can achieve many things. Not just football but your life. Work hard and also enjoy what you are doing which is also very important.