MFA pres­i­dent to meet na­tional team play­ers Tech­ni­cal Di­rec­tor Robert Gatt ex­plains what has been done in MFA’s 5-year plan

Malta Independent - - SPORT - Henry Brin­cat

MFA Pres­i­dent Nor­man Dar­manin De­majo yes­ter­day told re­porters that fol­low­ing what hap­pened and what was said af­ter the Eng­land and Lithua­nia matches, he will be invit­ing the na­tional team play­ers to meet him.

He said this would be an oc­ca­sion wherein the play­ers will meet him alone and thus would be able to air their griev­ances or put sug­ges­tions as to what can be done to im­prove Mal­tese foot­ball.

Dar­manin De­majo said that in his opin­ion, un­less we have full time pro­fes­sion­als it will still be dif­fi­cult to com­pete. In fact, he out­lined the fact that in this World Cup Group, it seems as if Malta’s part-time team is al­ways fac­ing a fully pro­fes­sional team, like those of Scot­land, Eng­land and Lithua­nia.

He added that the as­so­ci­a­tion had been – for a long time – seek­ing for­eign clubs to take on promis­ing Mal­tese young­sters where these can play pro­fes­sional foot­ball. “Sev­enty seven play­ers from abroad, par­tic­u­larly those liv­ing in Eng­land, Aus­tralia and New Zealand, were con­tacted to see whether they were in­ter­ested in play­ing for the na­tional team. Thirty one of them came here for a trial with us. Un­for­tu­nately only three made the grade, that is Luke Gam­bin, Sa­muel Ma­gri and a former Un­der 21 in­ter­na­tional.

“I must say that our dream of hav­ing a num­ber of play­ers play­ing abroad has not hap­pened. Four to five years af­ter we started the project, in­di­ca­tions are that we are still far from out tar­gets and this for var­i­ous rea­sons. Some of those who at­tended tri­als abroad were of­fered con­tracts, but for var­i­ous rea­sons, those of­fers were turned down. Hav­ing seen this hap­pen, we could have turned to ‘Plan B’, that is, to see whether it was pos­si­ble to have Mal­tese play­ers play­ing in a pro­fes­sional league here. But is that pos­si­ble?” asked Dar­manin De­majo.

He added: “How­ever, I am glad to see our Un­der 21 side ob­tain­ing such good re­sults in the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship qual­i­fy­ing Group. Let us not for­get that the coach is a UEFA Pro li­censed Mal­tese, Sil­vio Vella, and his team ob­tained three vic­to­ries and two draws for a record 11 points. Con­sid­er­ing that half the team is still el­i­gi­ble for the forth­com­ing two com­pe­ti­tions, then we must ad­mit that we can im­prove.

“I can­not say there has been no im­prove­ment, but we still have to solve a num­ber of prob­lems es­pe­cially the one which haunts us every time we play as part-timers against full time pro­fes­sion­als.

“The prob­lem lies with the clubs as, quite un­for­tu­nately, they lack the nec­es­sary funds to turn pro­fes­sional. To see play­ers turn­ing pro­fes­sional, that is at least train­ing morn­ing and even­ing, is per­haps the small­est of prob­lems as good con­tracts can be of­fered by the clubs, con­sid­er­ing the wages they are pay­ing their play­ers today. The big­ger prob­lem con­cerns the fu­ture of such play­ers. What will hap­pen af­ter their career as play­ers comes to an end? Can the Mal­tese clubs guar­an­tee these play­ers a lu­cra­tive fu­ture as pro­fes­sional clubs do abroad?” he asked.

He went on to say that when he was elected to the top MFA post, he had said that the pri­or­ity was to see the clubs hav­ing their own fa­cil­i­ties, that is foot­ball pitches with a green sur­face. “We in­vested €25 mil­lion thanks to Bank loans, UEFA funds and the help of the govern­ment. Still, the clubs have no en­cour­ag­ing struc­ture for the fu­ture.

Dar­manin De­majo added: “We all wish to see our na­tional team mak­ing progress, but un­less we have a fully pro­fes­sional Premier League with the clubs and their set-up, in­clud­ing the play­ers on a fully pro­fes­sional ba­sis, we can­not ever imag­ine that we will be mak­ing the kind of progress we all wish to see.”

Be­fore the end of the con­fer­ence, Dar­manin De­majo con­firmed a re­port in yes­ter­day’s Times of Malta that there was ‘over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence’ that heavy bets were placed – even un­til 20 min­utes from the end – that Malta would lose at least 2-0 against Lithua­nia.

MFA Tech­ni­cal Di­rec­tor Robert Gatt ex­plained the MFA set-up, es­pe­cially in the Youth sec­tor.

When he was ap­pointed, Gatt had started a five-year plan for Youth and Grass­roots foot­ball. “Now we are in the process of start­ing a pi­lot project which we are call­ing “the ba­sis for the fu­ture. At first we had 10 Premier clubs which were ready to in­vest a con­sid­er­able amount of funds, but two have since dropped out. We sin­cerely hope the re­main­ing eight clubs will be able to suc­ceed,” he added.

Gatt said a lot of hard work had been done es­pe­cially with re­gard to young­sters get­ting tri­als abroad. He said: “Twenty five had gone for tri­als, 12 of whom were of­fered a con­tract. At present, how­ever, only four are abroad and these are in Eng­land, Cata­nia, Frosi­none and Rangers. I can re­veal that a few days ago, I re­ceived a phone call from the sec­re­tary of a Premier League youth academy wish­ing to get in­for­ma­tion about young Mal­tese play­ers who could join that club. I still do not know ex­actly what they want but we will do ev­ery­thing to see one or more of our play­ers join­ing that academy in Eng­land,” said Gatt.

Among other things, Gatt praised the Coach Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment say­ing that it was one of the best in the whole of Europe. “The re­sults achieved are fantastic. So far we have six UEFA Pro li­censed coaches and an­other 19 are un­der­go­ing this course which lasts 21 months with about 400 hours of hard work,” he said.

Nor­man Dar­manin De­majo, right, and Robert Gatt, dur­ing yes­ter­day’s press con­fer­ence Photo: Joe Borg

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