Griffin Sabatini: From Zimbabwe to Airdrie via the US and Ukraine

Photograph provided courtesy of Griffin Sabatini

You signed for Airdrie in 2020 on loan from Dnipro-1. How do you reflect on your time in Scottish football so far?

The game is very fast in Scotland. You always have to be one step ahead especially in my position as a central midfielder.

People are always pressuring you from the moment that you receive the ball so it’s viral to scan what is around you so that you can be a few steps ahead of your opponent.

It’s also a very physical style of football but I’m enjoying my time in Scotland a lot.

For those that haven’t been able to watch you play live yet, how would you describe your role on the pitch?

Credit: Griffin Sabatini

I’m a technical midfielder who enjoys being on the ball. I always try my best and work as hard as I can for the team. I always make sure I give my all in every training session and in every match.

What is your personal highlight of the season so far?

I would have to say our game against Clyde. We won 5-0 and I was in the SPFL team of the week. That meant a lot to me and gave me confidence. That would be the highlight so far for sure.

Your journey in life so far is a very interesting one. Born in Zimbabwe before moving to Switzerland. How would you sum up your football upbringing?

I played football for a couple of Swiss sides including FC Wohlen. The standard was very good at youth level. I then went back to Zimbabwe at the age of 14 to play for the best side in the country who are called Highlanders F.C.

I played for them until I reached the under 18 set up and then I returned to Switzerland. With my youth team in Switzerland (Meyrin FC) we won the U17 Swiss cup and my team was packed with a lot of young talent. Following that, I went to play over in the United States.

I also spent time training with a Portuguese second division club in-between my time in Switzerland and the USA. I also trained with a team in a very technical divison in Spain called Tecera Division and got the opportunity to play against big clubs clubs like UD Levante.

You mention living and playing in the United States. You played college soccer for Northeastern Huskies. What was the standard of college soccer like in America?

It is very based upon physicality if I’m honest. They really like players who are athletes and have a lot of strength. They like their midfield players to be technically sound too.

Credit: Antonio Bustamante / Twitter

As an example, I played against Antonio Bustamante who is now a Bolivian international and has competed against the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar for his country.

Following your time in the USA, you move to Ukraine to sign for SC Dnipro-1. What was the standard of football in Ukraine like?

It was a very different experience compared to my previous experiences but it was also very good. The coaching staff and players were very supportive and there are a lot of talents at the club.

Credit: Transfermarkt

We also had a player on loan from Dinamo Kyiv called Papa Gueye who is a Senegal internationalist alongside Sadio Manè.

There were a lot of competition for places but the standards and quality levels were very high.

Finally Griffin, you are turning 23 this year and in footballing terms are still a very young player. What do you hope to achieve over the next few years?

Right now, my full focus is on Airdrie. I just hope that the season doesn’t get voided because we are competing at the top of the league and I want to work as hard as I can to ensure that we can challenge for promotion.

I would absolutely love to win the title with Airdrie. That will take a lot of hard work but that’s my personal aim and I want to do all that I can to help the club reach the championship.

Longer term, my goal is to constantly work hard and analyse my game to ensure that I continually develop in order play in the highest level of professional football.

Published by Callum McFadden

Football CFB founder. Freelance football writer & broadcaster of over 350 interviews with professional players and managers across all levels of football.

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