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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

Veteran Barbiero feeling vindicated as the MetroStars push for cup silverware

At 39, Fabian Barbiero is still pulling strings in the MetroStars midfield, as he has done for the past decade. In the lead-up to his side's clash against Campbelltown City in the Federation Cup Final, the midfielder spoke to Front Page Football about his enjoyment of continuing his career in 2023.

Fabian Barbiero celebrates his side's Federation Cup Final win in 2016. (Adam Butler/@8zerokms)


The MetroStars ended the 2022 NPL SA season in heartbreak, losing their semi-final 6-5 on penalties to eventual Grand Finalists, the Adelaide Comets. Astoundingly, the most experienced player on the park, Fabian Barbiero, with experience playing for Adelaide United and the Socceroos, sent his side's opening spot-kick way over the target.


The Comets later missed a penalty, but when Daniel Vaughan saved Alessio Melisi's spot-kick to ensure his side advanced, Barbiero felt partly responsible. The midfielder was candid when speaking to Front Page Football and shared that in the twilight of his career, he considered retiring following that fateful match.


"It wasn’t one of my proudest moments, missing that," Barbiero shared with FPF.


"It was quite heart-breaking, we were that close, but unfortunately, we fell short again. I always want to win and better myself, no matter my age and where I’ve played. It sort of took it out of me mentally and made me think, ‘Am I ready to hang them up, or do I go another season?"

Incoming head coach Danny Graystone was keen to hold onto Barbiero after losing multiple experienced players to retirement and outgoing transfers. Graystone explained to Barbiero that even if he does not play most games, his presence around the group, experience, and leadership would be valuable enough.


The midfielder was convinced to sign on for another year, and his new coach's request for him was simple: get into the best shape possible heading into the season. Barbiero clarified to Graystone that he did not want to be handed opportunities. Instead, he preferred to earn his spot in the side.


"I said that I don’t want any handouts because I have never been that type of player. I want to earn my position, and that was something I needed to do personally, a challenge to myself to prove to people who thought that I was done wrong. I wanted to prove that I still had enough left in the tank this season," he said.


Despite admittedly having moments during a gruelling pre-season in the blistering Adelaide summer that made him question his decision to continue, Barbiero made it through and is having a season to remember.


Barbiero has featured in 20 of his side's 21 matches in the league and cup, starting most. He has also recorded a career-best return in front of goal, scoring four in 2023.


Having spent most of his time with the MetroStars as a holding midfielder, season 2023 shows that an old dog can learn new tricks. After a conversation with Graystone, Barbiero has reinvented himself as an influential attacking midfielder.


"I had a chat with Danny, and we made the decision to sort of play me higher up the park and a bit closer to goal. I am enjoying that role, as sort of a 10, close to the goals and close to James Temelkovski," he said.


"But it comes down to the whole team as well; I am getting into some good positions, and the boys are doing well to get the ball into those areas. I am ecstatic to be able to help the team where I can."


Barbiero admits he has even surprised himself with his durability and performances at the advanced stage of his career. With his side leading the NPL SA, making the Federation Cup Final, and returning to the Australia Cup Round of 32, the midfielder is grateful for Graystone's trust after taking over the role.


"I’ve been very fortunate that Danny has given me an opportunity; I’ve taken it, and I’ve surprised myself and the coaching staff as well that I am starting so regularly," Barbiero said.


"I am very much enjoying my season this year; we have a great bunch of guys, and this team is extraordinary. Some of the football we play makes me want to play even longer!"


The Federation Cup Final sees Barbiero's MetroStars take on Campbelltown City. It's a battle of the North East and between the two best sides in the NPL SA right now. The MetroStars are only three points ahead of the Red Devils, who are second. But Campbelltown is a whopping ten points ahead of third-placed Adelaide United Youth.


"They are a top side, and it has [been] shown this season. They are second and only behind us by a few points; they are a strong, quality side, and we know that," Barbiero shared.


"They’ve got quality all over the park, dangerous players like Yohei Matsumoto, Alex Mullen, who is obviously their driving force, their engine in the midfield. You have to pay attention to those sorts of players, but we just have to concentrate on our game, know what we can do and what we can control. We have our game plan, and if we stick to it, we can achieve a win."

Despite being close on the league table, MetroStars have dominated their counterparts in recent meetings, winning their past five encounters against Campbelltown, including the two this season. The winning streak stretches back midway through the 2021 NPL SA season, and Barbiero thinks it might give his side the edge heading into Saturday's big day.


"Getting that win at home in the third round against Campbelltown sent a statement, and then to go and beat them at their home ground later in the season was obviously a good feeling," he said.


"It is a bit of a mental game as well; we have that mental edge on them that could potentially help us in the cup final. But anything can happen; football is a very funny sport. We just have to prepare like we have, week in, week out, and when game day comes, deliver what we know we can."

 

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The last time the MetroStars lifted silverware was in 2017, when they won the Federation Cup. The club has been close in recent years, but Barbiero believes the changes made over the off-season helped take the team to the next level and prepare them to break their silverware slump.


"We’ve always had a really strong squad at MetroStars, but this year we have added some more quality, along with Danny in the coaching staff. We set out some goals we wanted to achieve this season, and obviously, the cup was one of them," he added.


"Just having that fresh coaching staff, and obviously some changes around the club like the new players that have come on board. We have always had a winning culture, but that belief now that comes with how we have been playing has the boys riding this wave, and it is getting the best out of everybody."


In his long spell at the MetroStars, Barbiero has been a part of multiple successful sides. But along with the players, the midfielder understands how important winning silverware is for a community-backed club like his own.


"The club is quite proud of its achievements, and a lot of work goes into running the club with the volunteers and the committee. It is something that is nice to bring back for all the hard work everyone does daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. If we can give silverware as a reward for that effort, it is very rewarding for the club itself," he said.


The MetroStars will aim to win their first trophy in six years and continue their winning streak over Campbelltown City when the two sides clash at Service FM Stadium in the Federation Cup Final on Saturday afternoon.


Click here to read our interview with Barbiero's teammate, MetroStars striker James Temelkovski!

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