Sligo Rovers legend bids farewell

Sligo Rovers legend Raffaele Cretaro has today penned a statement which was released by the Bit O’ Red where it was confirmed that he has played his final game the club following 531 appearances, a club record, and scoring 86 goals.

The 37 year-old from Tubbercurry has inspired generations of supporters that have set foot in The Showgrounds for close to two decades.

Read Cretaro’s statement in full;

“My dream was to play for Sligo Rovers. I didn’t know if it was going to last for one game, one start or one year. I just wanted to fulfil my dream. I wanted to dedicate myself to that for how ever long it lasted, I’m proud to say I did.”

“I have amazing memories that will stay with me for my entire life. It has been so much of my life since I made my debut in 2000. I’m thankful to Tommy Cassidy for giving me that chance.”

“I was a local lad, I wanted to play for my local club and I wanted to be the best player I could.”

“Each season went by and there wasn’t too many times where I reflected in depth and dwelt on it. It was always looking forward, trying to learn, trying to fashion the chance to do something better each year here.”

“As I speak about it today I could talk about all those wonderful days. The game against St Patrick’s Athletic to win the league title and scoring two goals. Everything was perfect that day. The drama and the euphoria. It was a fairytale.”

“The FAI Cups, the great teams, the unbelievably talented team-mates, inspirational managers, the dedicated people around the club and the passionate supporters who live and breathe Rovers and make it what it is.”

“The feeling of knowing you were creating history for Sligo Rovers but more so what it would mean to all those people. I always just wanted to savour it and then do it all over again.”

“Those moments are what you put boots on for. But you know too there were also not so great times. I never let those phase me.”

“I saw it all and I just always realised there would be an opportunity, whether it was in one week or two weeks or how ever long, that you could go out and try to change it on the pitch and alter the club’s fortunes.”

“I don’t think there is a secret to longevity in terms of me playing here.”

“But for Sligo Rovers and how the club always comes back fighting when its down, that is the secret. There is always another day as long as you’re willing to work for it. The club has never been beaten in that sense.”

“I got to fulfil my career ambition. I remember coming out of The Shed end in The Showgrounds when it was wired fencing around it and in my first season the main stand was being built beside it. As I sit here today, it’s a transformation.”

“That came about by the golden era we had here. That was a legacy left behind. I don’t want to talk too much about my own personal legacy, I think that’s for others to do.”

“What I would like to say what if I inspired one person, even just one, then I did a good job in my time wearing the Rovers jersey. If it’s one young boy or girl dreaming now, if it was one dreaming over the 17 seasons I played here, then that’s good enough for me because it can turn into something magical. I speak from experience.”

“There is a little bit of sadness that it’s over now as a Sligo Rovers player. I realise that and there’s a mixture of emotions.”

“Wherever I went I always felt I didn’t just represent myself but I represented Sligo Rovers. It was not me as a person that people were viewing, it was the club.”

“I love Rovers, I always had its best interest at heart and I probably put it ahead of my own sometimes, but it was worth it on every occasion.”

“I will move to part-time football elsewhere shortly and that’ll suit me at this stage in my career. Those games are Friday nights. On a Saturday I can say you’ll very likely find me in The Showgrounds with my son Matteo supporting the team again.”

“As I speak about Matteo, I want to mention my testimonial this year and the standout moment. That was when my wife Joanne and Matteo were by my side looking on with pride. It meant so much to me. He might not be old enough to remember too much of it but I hope one day he can look back at the great photos and souvenirs of the occasion. My pride was as big as theirs.

“Joanne was there from the beginning, encouraging me, and my parents supported me in each decision and guided me. My family have always been there when I needed them and I’m so grateful to have them.”

“I’m conscious if I start speaking about individuals in football I could go on forever. I would like to say this and finish on this note.”

“The reason I played here for so long was you; the supporters. I just want to say thank you. The public were so kind. The reception and encouragement I’d get each time in The Showgrounds was something I will always treasure.”

“As each year passed, that connection and support grew stronger.”

“You drive the club on. Through hardship, glory, good times and bad, you always keep funds coming in to bring in the players, you bring the colour, the noise here and the passion to never give up.”

“There are countless more stories for Sligo Rovers players to go out and write on that pitch and I’ll be watching on for those.”

“I count myself very fortunate that mine was so long, so rewarding, with memories and moments that we all lived together.”

“See you under lights on a Saturday night and thank you forever.”

Raff Cretaro

The Sligo Rovers chairman Martin Heraghty hailed Raffaele Cretaro as one of the most important figures in the history of the club following the announcement that his time as a player with the club was coming to an end.

The Bit O’ Red chairman said Cretaro was an icon and an irreplaceable figure.

He said: “Over 17 seasons we have treasured each night Raff has taken to the pitch and represented our club with distinction and class.”

“Whenever someone mentions Sligo Rovers, it is often quickly followed by the name Raff Cretaro. He is the personification of our football club.”

“Many things come to mind. The early years in the First Division as he provided the light that there would be better future for us all of us one day. Raff’s leap into the air to win a header defied logic and lit up The Showgrounds and wowed our supporters. We wanted a better stage for it.”

“That came and each time Raff would step up a level when the club did. We yearned for trophies and they arrived with him at the forefront. He turned into the most feared striker in the league for a period and it was all the more remarkable given we had to use him in every position in the team!”

“Those goals stick out, the winning penalty at the Aviva Stadium and that incredible piece of magic in 2012 against Pat’s. The Showgrounds had never seen a moment like it.”

“But what I will always be grateful to Raff Cretaro for is being the person we could turn to for hope. In tougher times, you knew he would be going out there and showcasing that insurmountable fight that is within him and our football club. He defined all of that.”

“Raff played in every single outfield position for Sligo Rovers. He knew where his heart lay. How the story unfolded in 2011 and 2012 in particular was fate, and he made it so.”

“On behalf of the club I’m so grateful for his sacrifices, and to his family as well as they kicked every ball with him.”

“There are players in our Under-15s, Under-17s, Under-19s and senior team that put on our shirt now trying to be in any way like Raffaele Cretaro.”

“The wishes of our supporters went unfulfilled for decades, but became possible thanks to people like Raff, and when that period was over, he was there to help us build all over again.”

“Today it is my honour to salute one of the greatest individuals ever to be associated with the Sligo Rovers jersey. Raff, we simply say we loved every moment and we mean every word of this tribute, and feel it twice as much.”

New Sligo manager Liam Buckley said: “For so long I watched on as Raff brought his Sligo Rovers career to new heights. I watched on as he scored those goals against me in The Showgrounds as St Pat’s manager and you could only admire a player so loyal and that cared so much for his club.”

“It isn’t just about what he brings as a player. He is revered in Sligo and rightfully so. I know the club consider themselves so fortunate to have had his services for 17 seasons. He is a remarkable person because it is strength of character which has led to such a long and successful career here.”

“In the modern game that achievement for an outfield player is simply unheard of now. He has defied logic in contributing so much to Sligo Rovers over that long period of time.”

“In decades to come the name Raffaele Cretaro will brings smiles to the faces of the people of Sligo and you can’t achieve much more than that in football when you combine it with the honours he has won and the spirit in which he played the game.”

“We wish him a wonderful future and I know he will forever be behind this club.”

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