Updated: Aug 19, 2020
Zoca Bastion's Co Presidents give us their take on the highs and lows of running The Bastion & how they went from a bunch of kids playing football in the park to Futsal Club Owners.
The Bastion Insider :- When did you first get interested in Futsal
Karl James Ullger :- "With regards to futsal it all started back in our boyhood days when we used to play every Sunday 9am at the old St Joseph’s courts (which no longer exist). Here through word of mouth and mere weekly routine, different groups of 5/6 aside friend teams would turn up and tournaments would be arranged. It was then in 2002 that Bray F.C was founded by 3 or 4 of us. Bray F.C competed in the then only existing futsal league which run from May to September. In this season I can proudly claim that as player I finished in the top 10 highest goal scorers of the league with 27 goals behind heavy weights like Lee Casciaro and Joseph Chipol".
"After having a taster of what it entailed to start and organize a futsal team, Moe and I once again ventured into starting a futsal side in Leeds University along with the help of Michael Scott, who eventually played for Leo Bastion as well. The UK University team was called, Azzurri F.C".
"Once we returned to Gibraltar we were adamant that at some point we would start another futsal team once the league was put into place. Here is when Leo Bastion was born in 2013. "
Mohamed Yusuf Botawala : -"Football has always been one of my great passions, of course from watching it as a youngster and supporting Manchester United to playing it as a youngster in the local 11 aside leagues and with my friends at the old St Josephs courts, Futsal however i first started playing with Bray properties in the summer of 2002 when it was a summer past time. From here on in i was hooked and enjoyed a couple of seasons competing against the best Gibraltar had to offer alongside my friends".
"With Gibraltar's admission into UEFA in 2013 we got the chance to create our very own Futsal Club, with the help of very supportive sponsors Capurro Insurance, a dream of playing, owning and managing your own team was too good to be true and Karl Ullger and i grabbed the opportunity with both hands".
"Once we returned to Gibraltar we were adamant that at some point we would start another Futsal team once the league was put into place. Here is when Leo Bastion was born in 2013" Karl James Ullger
The Bastion Insider :- What were your ambitions for the club when you first started and do you feel you’ve got to where you want so far?
KJU :- "When myself and co-president, Moe Botawala started the club back in 2013 it was very much more of a recreational club where football obsessed friends were put together and able to compete against other futsal teams in a more competitive scenario rather than just ‘El Patio’ football. There were many other teams in the same boat as us which made it eve more competitive overall."
MYB:- "The ambition was to be able to play under our rules and with our friends initially, not having to join a team where we were dictated on how to play, as the seasons progressed we began to realise this team had potential and we attracted younger more skilful players and we started off our journey to reach the summit of the Futsal mountain. " In 2019/20 we reached that goal, now its our challenge to stay there and improve year by year".
The Bastion Insider :- What is the biggest change you've seen from the club since it's birth?
KJU :- "By far its organisation and running of the club. In the initial year it was only two of us running the show whereas now we have a good management and coaching team all responsible for different areas of the club. This in essence helps to build the club and give it more formality and seriousness. Our aims and objectives each year have got bigger and more challenging which can only be achieved with a good team ethos in the dressing room and on the pitch".
MYB:- "As Karl mentioned the day to day running is one of the biggest changes and challenges we have had to deal with. From just the two of us dealing with all matters, we now have a team who deal with football matters and administrative matters".
"However the professionalism on the pitch and at training is also a big change, from training on concrete surfaces to proper pitches and having proper warm ups drills and tactical briefings, we are learning how the football side should be run and you can see in the improvement on the pitch on match days".
The Bastion Insider :- Which player would you say has had the biggest influence in the club?
KJU :-" I feel considering the Leo Bastion years and conversion into Zoca Bastion, I must say that Sean Ballester has been the most consistent and very influential in the development of the team throughout the years he has been at the club. He has seen relegation battles as well as promotions. Sean also possesses those captaincy traits which I am sure he will one day cement into the full time Bastion captain".
MYB:- "I'd like to say our retired captain Mark Valverde. He has been a rock for us since we started and one of our most senior players throughout, leading the team through the good times and dark times. Playing sometimes on the edge with a passion and drive for the cause. He has always been a good character in the dressing room and rarely missed a training session".
".The great Sir Alex Ferguson is my inspiration, he created a dynasty with his steely determination, never ending drive to win and ruthlessness to get the job done" Mohamed Botawala
The Bastion Insider :- Who are your footballing & business inspirations?
KJU :- "Football nowadays is a business and a brand. I feel at Zoca we definitely have something very positive happening and with the right mentality and running of the club there is no reason why we can’t continue to grow. A project that was muted last year under the Zoca brand ‘Umbrella’ was starting a Zoca Woman’s team or even a Juniors team. These are two avenues that interest us. In saying this, our main priority at the moment needs to be to cement Zoca as a household name in the Gibraltar Futsal scene especially now being part of the Futsal Premier, and then the rest will follow. A special mention needs to be given here to Capurro Insurance who for their overwhelming support sponsoring Leo Bastion and then believing in the Zoca Bastion project. Without their support Zoca wouldn’t be the club it is today and running for now 7 years".
MYB:- "Id have to say that my favourite team is Manchester United and you cant get a better model than them. The way they have been run when i first started supporting them in the early 90's, becoming the global franchise they are now known all over the world. We as a club have tried to spread our Leo/Zoca Bastion brand through social media and via our sponsors Capurro Insurance as much as we can getting the word out for fans and anyone else to notice us and support our cause".
"In terms of football, the great Sir Alex Ferguson is my inspiration, he created a dynasty with his steely determination, never ending drive to win and ruthlessness to get the job done. These qualities drive me to be a better President and Coach".
The Bastion Insider :- "Who would be your dream local signing?
KJU :- My dream local signing we have had already but was injury struck and wasn’t able to complete a full season. Mr Damian Rocca on full throttle and playing alongside some of our current established Zoca players would have just been frightening to play against. His stats were amazing for just 5 appearances. (10 Goals / 4 Assists). Plus, his presence on the pitch with other players would be very uplifting and intimidating".
MYB:- "My dream signing would be the current Gibraltar 11 Aside Captain Roy Chipolina , he is the epitome of professionalism a born leader and a damn good footballer. Having played with him in the essential services league i know what its like to have that sort of character on your side willing the team together, hopefully one day with a little persuasion we can convince him once he retires from Lincoln and Gibraltar, now that would be the Galactico signing ;)"