Birkirkara presented their new signings during a press conference at the Eurosport outlet in Birkirkara on Wednesday.
After losing out the title to Valletta in a decisive game, the Stripes had several changes in their squad as Rowen Muscat and Joseph Zerafa moved to England and Hungary respectively, foreigners Demba Toure, Jhonnattann Benites da Conceicao and Ronaille Calheira Seara were not retained, Daniel Zerafa was loaned to St. George’s and Reuben Gauci left the club.
Birkirkara signed three Brazilian players – Ellinton Antonio Costa Morais ‘Liliu’, Eliandro dos Santos Gonzaga and Rafael Pompeo Rodrigues Ledesma and Ukrainian striker Vyacheslav Shevchenko.
Birkirkara coach Paul Zammit said that after throwing away the title, it was not easy for his players to start the new season with a Super Cup clash with Valletta. He said it was a difficult summer for him and the players after ending such a positive campaign by losing everything in the final ninety minutes. Zammit said the players made huge sacrifices and were determined to do their best to forget this disappointment. He said that here was a particular thirst to bounce back and with the victory in the BOV Super Cup, the team had a positive start to the 2014/15 season.
Zammit admitted performances were not consistent in their BOV Premier League campaign so far. The Stripes, in fact, are currently second, six points behind leaders Hibernians after winning five matches and suffering defeats to Balzan and Tarxien.
He said that the club worked hard to get the new foreigners and these obviously need time to settle down although in some matches, they have already shown their quality. Despite the several changes in the squad, most of the core players are still there and a club like Birkirkara will be among the main challengers for hnours.
When asked about the lack of consistency, Paul Zammit said that he was worried about the level of the game, mainly due to the lack of competition as the league format is doing the opposite by bringing the top teams in level with other clubs with the introduction of the 5+1 foreigners and the large number of teams in the top division.
“I cannot understand how a small country like Malta can have a Premier League with twelve teams and a First Division with fourteen teams. Everyone can play football but not all deserve to be among the elite. With this format, we brought all clubs to play on the same level,” said Zammit.
Paul Zammit stressed that to improve the game, we needed to increase competition. He argued that there is a huge waste of youth development, saying that a player cannot improve without competition and this was extremely difficult when having almost sixty nurseries in such a small island.
Zammit said that it was not true that with fewer teams, young players would find it harder to emerge, mentioning players like Gilbert Agius, Joe Brincat, Michael Mifsud and Rowen Muscat as clear examples. He stressed that it was important to have fewer clubs which are well organised with the Second and Third Division playing at a pure amateur level.
The Birkirkara coach concluded by saying that for changes to occur, it was not easy as clubs obviously look after their interests and the only way forward for the local game would be to have such decisions taken directly by the MFA administration.
Birkirkara FC president Joe Zammit added that the club was in favour of full compliance with FIFA regulations with regards to players’ status. He said that the freedom of movement for players was for the good of the game and that he hoped that with the forthcoming approval of the revised regulations by the MFA, we do not ending up making exceptions to all regulations.
When asked about the future of Shola Shodiya, Joe Zammit said that the end of last season, the club could not meet the player’s requests for a much better contract. However this week, there will be new negotiations with his agent and the player could return with the club if there is a positive conclusion to these discussions.