‘I had five tears down my right side’: Gallifuoco’s painful journey to become a Mariners hero
At his worst point, Giancarlo Gallifuoco was unable to use any part of the right side of his body to do anything related to football.
Just trying to attempt a pass with his right foot rendered him in extreme pain and discomfort.
The ailment was a result of a serious injury against Maitland FC in the FFA Cup in what was his first competitive game for new club Central Coast Mariners.
“I had three tears in my groin, tore my hip flexor and tore the bottom of my abdomen,” Gallifuoco recalled to a-league.com.au of the injury back in July.
“I had my whole right side unable to strike, not able to run, so it was a pretty frustrating 14 weeks.
“It was good for my left foot because I got to practice that a lot but even once I got back it was still so painful to strike, I was on a lot of painkillers.”
MATCH PREVIEW: Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners
While still not back to full fitness when the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 Season started in October, Gallifuoco has patched himself up to play a key role for the Mariners.
And the 25-year-old got a tangible reward for his perseverance and work-ethic by scoring the winning goal as the Mariners beat Western United FC 1-0 last weekend.
“It’s a nice feeling and the most important thing is that the goal led to the win,” Gallifuoco said.
“The main thing I haven’t been able to do was strike the ball and even though it was probably the softest strike I’ve ever done, it led to the goal.
“I’ve been building up game-by-game and the gaffer [coach Alen Stajcic] has been helping me with picking and choosing my times to be offensive, run and back up play, and I’m so grateful that my pain is slowly subsiding.”
He may only be a few months into his two-year deal in Gosford but Gallifuoco admits he already feel right at home at the club.
Which is refreshing for the Sydney-born baller who has played everywhere from Tottenham in England, Welsh side Swansea City, to the lower rungs of English football and Italian Serie C outfit Rieti.
Gallifuoco got a taste of the glitz and glamour of being at a Premier League club, arriving at Spurs as a teenager in 2012 where he shared a change-room with the likes of Harry Kane, Andros Townsend and company.
A part of the youth team in North London, he was on the cusp of the first team without being able to make the big break.
While he looks back at his time at Tottenham – and then with fellow EPL club Swansea – fondly, he says he got the most out of his experience at lower-league teams like Torquay and Dover Athletic.
“It was beautiful to be trained by the best coaches in the world but I took it as a massive lesson for me, that in the end training is fantastic but the most important thing is playing,” he said.
“When I speak to young players that’s the first thing I say to them, if you’re not playing here go to a lesser team and try and play.
“Just rack up the experience because in the end experience is what will get you through.
“When you’re at Spurs and you have 17 masseuses, 14 physios, a pool, an ice bath it’s fantastic, then you go down to Torquay and you have one physio and the pitch isn’t the best, and instead of 40,000 people at White Hart Lane it’s 4,000.
“But unfortunately you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do because in the end people will look back at my CV and they’ll say ‘you played there for two years, you played 90 games and scored nine goals and that’s what we want to know’.”
Fast forward to 2019 and Gallifuoco made the decision to return to Australia after a short stint in the third tier in Italy.
While things were excellent on the field, where he was club captain, there were issues off it as he went a couple of months without being paid.
Gallifuoco played the last part of last season at Western Sydney Wanderers before moving up the M1 to Gosford thanks to the security of a two-year deal.
And he hasn’t looked back, becoming a mainstay of Stajcic’s XI in his preferred midfield position.
“There’s an expression that they used to say to me in Italy, [they said I’m] a cows tail because I’m the person that cleans up all the poo,” Gallifuoco said.
“I feel like that’s my best role, I think I can definitely get four or five goals this season and can create, but my best role is keeping the structure of the team and connect the play. From the midfield I can steer the ship.
“Me and Milan [Duric] have developed quite a good connection because we know what we’re both good at, he knows I’m going to work and win the ball back and give it to him in good areas, and he’s going to go score me the goal.”
He added: “There’s a good vibe around the area. You’re starting to see all the Mariners hats out when you walk around Gosford, stickers on the cars, you start to feel that vibe again that they’re proud of their team.
“It’s a beautiful thing to see because this club has such a rich history and unfortunately it’s a bit tainted by the last two or three years.
“Hopefully with this feel, this gaffer and these boys who are working so hard…I feel like we’re bringing back the pride to the coast.”