Giancarlo Gallifuoco was only five games into his Melbourne Victory return when he and the rest of the competition were sent into isolation.
The defender completed the move in February from the Central Coast Mariners with an incentive to play Champions League football – a dream the 26-year-old quickly realised after being thrown straight into the line-up for Victory’s opening group games against Chiangrai United and FC Seoul.
But the dream came to a premature halt in mid-March due to COVID-19 before the AFC, in April, postponed all matches and competitions to May-June as well as the ACL Knock-out stages to September.
‘It was frustrating because when this opportunity came, I was so excited and aside from playing for Victory with a lot of my friends the ACL was a massive motivator,’ Gallifuoco told FNR.
‘I’m glad I got to play two games but it’s been hard hearing every time it’s been postponed and postponed but what can you do?
‘It’s been difficult, everyone’s a bit different but since I’ve been five I’ve had a routine revolving around football and all of a sudden, for ten weeks, we can’t do that. I’ve bench pressed and squatted everything around the house and played football in every single corner. I’m ‘nutmegging’ my dad, slide tackling my girlfriend I don’t know what to do.’
The season was already unlike any other for Melbourne Victory, with the club sitting tenth and set to miss finals for just the fourth time in its history.
Victory players have been left licking their wounds in isolation after a 3-0 defeat away to the Wellington Phoenix in their last competitive match.
The club is also using this period to search for a permanent head coach, a position which Carlos Salvachua has occupied as an interim boss since Marco Kurz’s sacking in January.
‘I’m sure those discussions have been had with the older guys. I have nothing against Carlos he’s been a great coach and with whatever decision my attitude doesn’t change,’ Gallifuoco said.
‘I hope this pandemic has given a lot of time to fix injuries and come back with a lot of motivation. We want to push hard regardless of expectation and show that for 93 minutes we’re going to try everything we can.’
In addition to a career in the A-League, Gallifuoco has plied his trade in the UK. He joined Socceroo Massimo Luongo at Tottenham Hotspur as a 16-year-old under Harry Redknapp, before stints at Swansea and sides in England and Italy’s lower-tiers.
‘Harry [Redknapp] is an intimidating coach. Coming from being second division Italy where I was playing with 16 year olds and I was huge compared to everyone and all of a sudden I’m playing in midfield and Adebayor is four-feet taller than me,’ he said.
‘I was very lucky because Mas [Luongo] was playing and he would always pass me the ball. I think Harry Redknapp is the kind of coach who is very laconic. He doesn’t have to say a lot but when he says stuff it sticks and you’re all listening.
‘He also wasn’t afraid to smack you in line, it’s a shame I only got six months. Once we got onto the pitch you could feel him switch it on and he was not to be messed with.’
Featured Image – Melbourne Victory FC