Newly-promoted Pietà Hotspurs will be aiming at retaining their Premier League status as they return among the elite of local football after an absence of six years. The new signings, which include five new foreign players, were presented during a press conference at the club premises on Tuesday.
Addressing the media, president Joe Sammut said that over the past three years, the team showed progress from one year to another and is now looking forward to having all within the club to continue working hard to maintain this progress throughout the coming season. He said that the club is proud of having a nursery which produces several players who go on to wear the shirt of the senior team.
With regards to the administration, Pietà went through some changes as Frankie Ciantar who was in charge of the club’s nursery moved elsewhere after serving the club for a long period of time and he was replaced by Damian Saliba. While thanking Frankie Ciantar for the services rendered to the club, Joe Sammut said that Saliba will continue where Ciantar had left and his role as treasurer will be taken by Matthew Psaila.
The Hotspurs have a completely new foreign line-up as they signed five new foreign players, namely Argentine midfielder Claudio Francés and Brazilians Leonardo Fortunato dos Santos, Rafael Rodriguez, Joao Gabriel da Silva and Rafael Xavier. Only Gabriel played in Malta before – turning out for Valletta and Qormi. Brazilian midfielder Ricardo Costa, who played for the club last season, is currently in Brazil due to family matters and promised the club he will return when these problems are settled. On the other hand, last season’s BOV First Division scorer Raphael Kooh Sohna, is no longer with the club, as according to the Pietà president, the club could not match his requests despite a good offer by the club.
From the local market, Pietà signed Luke Micallef from Melita and veteran striker Malcolm Licari from Rabat Ajax who will therefore return with the club after an absence of eleven years. Goalkeeper David Cassar re-joins the club from Tarxien Rainbows on another one-year loan.
Joe Sammut stressed that Pietà will be staying with their feet on the ground and move step by step towards achieving their objectives. He went on to say that he was confident that they had what it takes to retain their Premier League status.
Sammut concluded by thanking the sponsors and club members for their support.
Pietà Hotspurs coach Noel Coleiro said preparation for the coming season was good despite an injury of one of the foreigners. However he said that this provided the opportunity to watch younger players in action. Coleiro said that as it was the case last season, the younger players in the squad will soon get their chances. The Pietà coach said that there are currently three Under-19 and three Under-21 international players – six players that have already started to establish themselves in the local game and that he truly believed in their potential.
The Hotspurs won The Convenience Shop Malta Summer Cup after beating Mosta but the Pietà coach said that although players could start to gauge what to expect from league matches, it is only with the start of the Premier League campaign this weekend that one could really gauge the strength of the team.
Noel Coleiro, who had led Tarxien Rainbows in the Premier League, believes that his squad provides a good mix of young players and experienced ones and aims at having the team going out to play its game, not being afraid and give a good challenge to all teams.
Club secretary Mario Mallia was more specific in pointing out the club’s objective – avoiding the tenth place which would mean a decider with the third-placed team in the First Division: ninety minutes which would decide the faith of the team even after possibly quite a good season.
He concluded that the Hotspurs’ transfer campaign is closed with regards to local players but did not rule out any foreign players which are within the club’s budget.