122nd Malta appearance looming for Mifsud
Come this Friday, sixteen years after his international debut, Malta’s prolific striker Michael Mifsud will in all probabilites be trudging on the pitch at the same stadium to claim his122nd presence with the shirt of his country, Malta – the latest trademark in an illustrious national-team career that kicked off against Albania in February 2000 – a record number of presences which will be shared with David Carabott who has held this record of appearances to date.
Malta will be taking on Slovenia in their fourth FIFA World Cup European qualifier from Group F at the National Stadium, kick off time 20:45 on Friday, November 11.
With Maltese football in general very much in the news recently, the Malta Independent Sports Team met up with Michael just before this important match against the Slovenians. Malta are rooted bottom of Group F with three losses from as many matches with only one goal scored and nine conceded.
“We are all ready and sorted to go against Slovenia on Friday at the National Stadium. As always it will not be easy but we will be giving our all to register a positive result. Please do allow me here to thank all the Maltese supporters who come to support the national team on a regular basis. You are our twelfth man on the pitch. Playing before a very encouraging home crowd at these important matches gives us that extra boost to do really well” stated a confident Mifsud.
Asked upon what he still recalls of his very first game for his country in 2000 against Albania, Michael stated that he was over excited to hear that he would be a starter “Big excitement! I was still very young – 17, but I had total support from my team mates. Playing your first match for your country can always be regarded as a very big step in any footballer’s career. Yes I can still remember that match. I was very happy to be playing for my country at such a young age. The dissapointing part was that we lost 1-0 to the Albanians”
A Sliema Wanderers product, Mifsud went on to don the jerseys of big clubs like Kaiserslautern in the Bundesliga. He stayed with the Bundesliga giants from 2001 to 2004 after which he rejoined Sliema. Lillestrom in the Norwegian elite division was his next stop. But Michael’s biggest exploits will always be remembered when he joined Coventry City in 2007. He stayed until 2009 turning out 86 times for the Sky Blues and scoring 16 times under Iain Dowie and actual Wales head coach Chris Coleman.
Many still remember that cold evening at Old Trafford in September 2007 when Coventry sealed, against all odds, a 2-0 shock Carling League Cup win over the great Manchester United. Spanish international Gerard Pique, then with the Manchester club and now enjoying illustrious fame with FC Barcelona, had no answer to Mifsud’s two famous goals against the red devils. Since then Coventry have failed to reach similar highs.
The big following Mifsud still enjoys at Coventry was reflected clearly when Mifsud trudged on the illustrious Wembley Stadium pitch as a second half substitute in Malta’s recent 2-0 defeat against England on October 8. Avid Coventry fans immediately took to social media to show their respect to a great footballer and a great man - “Mifsud comes on for Malta. What an absolute God that man is” posted one fan on twitter. “I don’t care. I would love to see Mifsud score against England” posted another.
Dubbed “Mosquito” by the Sky Blues fans, Mifsud was all set to sign for Bristol City next, but the move broke down and the talented Sliema man ended up on loan to Barnsley before a return back to his native Malta with Valletta, picking up a Premier League championship medal in the process. Qormi was his next destination before moving on again to Valletta where he remained until 2011.
In 2013 he moved to Australia’s top football division – the ALeague with Melbourne Heart – but was soon back to Malta yet again with Valletta.
Since his move back to Malta life has not been easy for Mifsud. Ghedin opted for Alfred Effiong as his main striker up front – meaning that Malta’s prolific striker had to settle for a substitute’s role on the bench. He subsequently suffered the same fate with his club Valletta but never gave up “I am a fighter all the way. I keep on training in my best possible manner in order to demonstrate that I am not giving in easily, that I am always knocking on the door. In other words I make my presence felt. But of course this is football and one has to respect the final decision of the coach”
Recently Mifsud clawed his way back to the Valletta first eleven after a series of matches which saw the explosive striker in fine physical form “I feel very fit indeed. Physically I am very good, as always I take up training with my usual professional approach. I also find time to train by myself, but training with my club Valletta has helped me a lot. It keeps me active and alive. I do believe that despite my age I still have loads to give to local football in general. I still have the tenacity and the drive to keep me moving forward”
Proof of this arrived in September 2015 when Michael came off the bench to claim his 40th goal for his country in a UEFA European Qualifier against Azerbaijan at the National Stadium in Malta’s 2-2 draw.
Asked what were his best moments of his illustrious career he grinned “There were quite a few. When you work hard, and do big sacrifices, in turn you see results coming your way. Well those are the rewards which you reap. I have no regrets in what I did – maybe I could have done even better, but if I had to start all over again I would do everything the way I did!” smiled Mifsud over his coffee after one his training sessions with Malta this week.
“I still have one a half more years to go with Valletta. My objective is that of keep on doing well, giving my all always and at all times and then see what comes next. The nice things about football is that you cannot predict what can happen even tomorrow. I do not even think about retirement at all because I feel fit and I feel good and that is the most important thing in life. All I think about is how I can help my team mates and Valletta to do well and maybe win more honours. I want to go on as much as possible doing what I love doing most – playing football at the highest level!”
Mifsud also spoke in general about what he thinks would get Maltese football moving forward to better results and placings. “Everyone knows that facilities are lacking in Malta. Take Valletta, champions of Malta. We still do not have our own ground where we can train. On the other hand I do believe that grassroots is the base to a solid structure in getting Maltese football in general moving forward. I can confirm that we have talent in Malta and the message I want to give to aspiring youngsters willing to make the grade to top level football is that where there is a will there is a way. Nothing is impossible. Just keep on striving and believe in your abilities and you will get there”
Malta’s illustrious footballer confessed what his feelings will be if he trudges on the pitch of the National Stadium on Friday against Slovenia and register his 122nd presence for his country.
“It means so much. A big satisfaction to have reached this milestone personally. A personal reward for all the hard work and big sacrifices I have been through during all these years. Life of a footballer is not easy. God willing Friday it will be a day to remember”commented Mifsud clearly still brimming with over excitement just like when he claimed his first appearance for Malta against Albania on February 10, 2000.
And a goal for Malta too?! We exclaimed! - “Why not? That would be the icing on the cake!” concluded Mifsud with a nice grin.
March, 2010 - Michael Mifsud celebrates scoring for Malta in the 2-1 home loss to Finland. Photos: Domenic Aquilina
Mifsud signals his 40th goal for his country after scoring against Azerbaijan in September of 2015.