Futsal champions ZC Excess have strengthened their squad with the signing of two Romanian internationals ahead of the UEFA Futsal Cup Preliminary Round mini-tournament which they will be hosting between August 16 and 19 at the Cottonera Sports Complex. Details were revealed by ZC Excess player-coach Florin Anton during a press conference at The Palace Hotel, Sliema on Thursday.
An extremely confident Florin Anton, who played for Premier League side Hamrun Spartans two years ago, said ZC Excess will be aiming to win this mini-tournament and reach the Main Round of the competition. For this purpose, he brought two Romanian internationals – Gabriel Dobre and Emil Raducu. These signings bring the total of foreign players in the squad to six, the others being Metin Turk, Fabiano Bassi, Manea Florin and player-coach Florin Anton. The squad also includes a number of Malta national team players.
Tournament Director Mark Borg explained that the tournament will be held between August 16 and 19, with two games daily. ZC Excess play the first game against BGA Futsal on August 16, then against KF Tirana on August 17 and finally against FS Ilves Tampere. The local team will play all its matches at 20:00.
The other games in programme are:
Monday 16 18:00 FS Ilves Tampere vs KF Tirana
Tuesday 17 18:00 BGA Futsal vs FS Ilves Tampere
Thursday 19 18:00 KF Tirana vs BGA Futsal
KF Tirana are well-known in the local futsal scene as they have been drawn with Maltese teams on other occasions. They met Hibernians in 2007 and White Eagles in 2009, besides coming to Malta for training camps. They won the Albanian championship five times and have a number of Albanian national team players in their squad.
FS Ilves Tampere is the most successful club in the history of futsal in Finland. They won the championship four times and ended as runners-up on another three occasions. They took part in the UEFA Futsal Cup three times, taking part in the Main Round of the competition.
On the other hand, BGA Futsal won the Danish championship over the past three years and are also the founders of the first an only Danish Futsal Academy sanctioned by the Danish FA.
ZC Excess Futsal were originally founded in 2001 as Juvenis Aluserv and after playing in the Second Division, they secured promotion in 2007. In their first two seasons in the top division, they reached the Championship Play-Offs but were eliminated at semi-final stage. This year, the club merged with Second Division side Lazio Supporters Club and this move proved to be the winning card as they won the Futsal Championship with Florin Anton winning the MFA Futsal Player of the Year Award and the award for the Best Futsal Player in the Melita Football Awards.
Mark Borg said the club had a vision for the game of futsal and hopefully with the change in the MFA administration, the association embraces this vision and work in complete synergy with clubs.
MFA President Norman Darmanin Demajo said that in the late eighties, when the government handed the piece of land to Luxol, there was a small cement basketball court where he noticed that kids used to play football rather than basketball. He said people loved small-sided games and hence the club decided to take a risk and invest in a five-a-side artificial turf pitch. With the popularity of five-a-side football growing beyond expectations, more five-a-side pitches were installed at Luxol and eventually such pitches mushroomed all around the country.
Although not the same as five-a-side football, the popularity of Futsal made incredible strides despite the lack of sports halls which could host the game.
The new MFA president said that the association should now ask what can be done to ride this Futsal wave. He said one should recognise three important points: recognise the importance of Futsal in the development of football; investment in infrastructure and support for people with passion for this game.
Darmanin Demajo mentioned a project which is planned in Naxxar where the club has taken lease on a piece of land next to the Trade Fair Grounds on which they plan to build a football ground and a Futsal hall.
Meanwhile Malta Futsal national coach Vic Hermans said that over the past year since his arrival, there has been a number of changes. He said that also by attracting this mini-tournament to Malta, the country was showing UEFA the development of the game of Futsal.
PHOTOS: COPYRIGHT © DOMENIC AQUILINA