While Gżira United have already written a new chapter in their European history, a former Maroons player looks to make his mark on this competition as well.
Haruna Garba, who left the Maltese club at the end of last season, is currently on the books of Hungarian side Debreceni after sealing a permanent move from Malta.
After dispatching Albania’s Kukesi in the first qualifying round, with Garba scoring one of the goals in their 3-0 first leg win, Debreceni will now brace themselves for a bigger challenge against Serie A side Torino.
The Italians will host the first leg at the Stadio Giuseppe Moccagatta, in Alessandria, as their stadium won’t be available.
Garba, 25, is relishing the opportunity to shine on the big stage and has described it as a lifetime opportunity to be in one of Europe’s most prestigious club competitions.
“It is a dream to be playing at such level but at the same time it has always been my ambition to grace football fields of such quality,” Garba told Times of Malta.
“I am really happy to be part of this side and to be one of the scorers in the previous round it was a fantastic feeling for me, making our fans happy in particular.
So far, it seems that we have a competitive side and we want to progress as far as possible in this competition but at the same time it always depends on the draw as well.”
Upsets in European competitions, in particular at this time of the season, are possible given that the fitness and physical level of the teams differs due to their different domestic schedule.
With the Hungarian championship to start few weeks prior to the Serie A, Garba’s Debreceni might have physical edge over Torino.
Nonetheless, Garba wants his team to play their best ever game and make this high-profile match one to remember.
“For us it is a big game, because you always want to face such sides on the European stage,” Garba explained.
“You always want to showcase yourself against these type of teams because it gives you more exposure and I am really looking forward to test myself.
“Moreover, it is an opportunity for our team to stamp our mark in the Europa League as well.”
Asked about what type of environment he found at Debreceni, Garba was pleased with the warm welcome that the club gave him and with the professional set up at the seven-time Hungarian champions.
“I came across a fantastic environment and I am really glad to be forming part of this team,” Garba said.
“I am in a team that wants to win every game and every trophy and that is something that motivates you to give your all on the field.
“At this club, there is everything you require as a professional player, from a nutritionist up to the facilities and that is very helpful for my growth as a player.”
Garba described Debreceni as a team that carries a lot of expectations and he hopes he can be part of a successful story with them.
Garba was delighted that his former team-mates at Gżira managed to stun Hajduk Split and advance in the same competition.
“I am so proud of my guys, because I know what they are capable of and they made Maltese football proud of them,” Garba said.
“To be honest, Maltese football does not enjoy a very respectable reputation abroad and in fact, when I signed for Debreceni the club president asked me a lot about it and I had told him that it is improving a lot.
“Then, heading back from our second leg, the president turned on me and told me that Gżira had eliminated Hajduk and I felt very proud in that instant.”
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