Indian Super League outfit Chennaiyin FC have brought onboard 33-year-old Maltese attacker Andre Schembri on a free transfer ahead of the 2019-20 campaign. The versatile forward will become the first player from Malta to play for CFC as well as in the ISL. He joins the club after a spell at Cypriot top-division side Apollon Limassol FC, with whom he became the first Maltese player to score in the proper rounds of a UEFA competition, netting in the UEFA Europa League.
“It is an honour to sign for Chennaiyin and become the first Maltese footballer to play for the club and in the ISL. Malta is very close to Italy and I know a lot about Chennaiyin because of its rich history involving Italians!” said Schembri while referring to CFC’s first Head Coach Marco Materazzi and subsequent former Italian footballers to play for the club. “I hope this is the best year of my career as all of us at the club set out to achieve the target of winning the ISL title. My aim is to bring my experience to the fray and also help the youngsters with that and my leadership skills. I am a team player and I am elated to be part of the CFC family,” he added.
Schembri has been in contact with the CFC Head Coach John Gregory, with their sights set on bringing Chennaiyin back to the top.
“John (Gregory) has told me a lot about the club, the league and football in the country. I look forward to playing for him and also learning a lot from his coaching and experience. And to the fans, I will give my utmost and best to reach the target and I look forward to seeing them fill our stadium in huge numbers,” said Schembri, who become CFC’s sixth summer signing following Lithuanian Nerijus Valskis, Romanians Lucian Goian and Dragos Firtulescu, Afghan Masih Saighani and Indian Edwin Sydney Vanspaul.
“Andre (Schembri) is a seasoned professional who has been among the flag-bearers of Maltese football over the years. His goal-scoring ability, versatility and leadership skills will be a huge asset in our pursuit of the ISL title. He has been prolific in front of goal throughout his career, and I am sure he will continue to find the mark in Chennaiyin colours. Andre is another example of someone who will fight for the badge and inspire those around him. I am really excited about how things are shaping up as we count down to pre-season,” said the Chennaiyin FC Head Coach John Gregory.
CFC will mark Schembri’s first stint outside Europe, bringing with him bags of experience at club and country level. After spending his early career in his homeland Malta, Schembri set out across Europe to gain experience in Germany (Eintract Braunschweig, Carl Zeiss Jena – both on loan & FSV Frankfurt), Austria (Austria Karnten), Hungary (Ferencvaros), Greece (Olympiacos Volou & Panionios) and Cyprus (Omonia).
Then in 2016, he had a spell at Portuguese Primeira Liga side Boavista. The next year he returned to Cyprus, this time to join Apollon Limassol. With four goals in the six qualifying matches, Schembri led Apollon to the UEFA Europa League group stages, and also went on to become the first Maltese player to score in the proper rounds of a UEFA competition. The same season, he scored the winner in the Cypriot Super Cup final against APOEL Nicosia.
A Maltese sporting icon and role model, Schembri comes from a family of footballers, with his grandfather, father and uncles all having played for the national team. And with 94 international appearances, he is one of the island nation’s most capped players. He announced his retirement from international football in November 2018 following Malta’s 1-1 draw against Faroe Islands in the UEFA Nations League.