Malta retained the quota of seventeen referees on the FIFA Panel for 2017 and the international referees stay in the same categories as last year. This was announced by Director of Refereeing Kevin Azzopardi during the presentation of the FIFA Badges at the Westin Dragonara Resort in an event hosted by the Malta Football Association and the Malta Football Referees Association on Thursday.
There were three changes as Christopher Francalanza makes his return on the FIFA Panel as Assistant Referee while Matthew Vella and Jonathan Mallia are two new faces as Futsal Referee and Beach Soccer Referee respectively. They replace William Debattista, Franco Cachia and Stefan Pace respectively.
The referees on the FIFA Panel for 2017 are therefore:
FIFA Referees: Trustin Farrugia Cann, Clayton Pisani, Alan Mario Sant and Fyodor Zammit
FIFA Assistant Referees: Alan Camilleri, Christopher Francalanza, Luke Portelli, Mitchell Scerri, Edward Spiteri, Jurgen Spiteri, Duncan Sultana, Roberto Vella
FIFA Woman Referee: Esther Azzopardi
FIFA Futsal Referees: Matthew Vella, Clinton Mario Cassar
FIFA Beach Soccer Referees: Jonathan Mallia, Jude Amin Utulu
Kevin Azzopardi said that over the past year, the Refereeing Centre within the Malta Football Association and the Malta Football Referees Association worked hand in hand and there was a particular attempt in trying to lure a number of people back to the sector.
The MFA Director of Refereeing said that over the past year, there was an increase of forty percent in the number of international appointments and this was not the result of lobbying but only thanks to the potential of the local officials – their hard work and commitment.
He thanked William Debattista, Franco Cachia and Stefan Pace for their contribution and said that the door will remain open for them, no matter what they decide to do – whether continue their refereeing career or take another role. Azzopardi revealed that in the coming weeks, there will be more referees’ exchanges with a number of countries including Kosovo, Andorra and Albania and possibly with another country outside Europe.
Kevin Azzopardi congratulated Esther Azzopardi after the latter was presented with the Medal for Service to the Republic by the President of the Republic Marie Louis Coleiro Preca during the Ġieħ ir-Repubblika awards ceremony last Tuesday. He said this was a sign that society in general approved the referees’ work. He went on to say that although constructive criticism was appreciated, no personal attacks will be tolerated.
The MFA Director of Refereeing went on to say that one of the top priorities of the Refereeing Centre is that of an aggressive recruitment campaign, especially in view of the huge demand of referees.
While congratulating the referees who were presented with the FIFA badges, MFA General Secretary Dr Angelo Chetcuti said that this presentation should serve as a target for the young referees to aim for. He went on to say that the award presented to Esther Azzopardi shows that for society, the referee was being considered as a role model.
Dr Chetcuti concluded that referees, like administrators and other stake holders, are there only to render a service to the game.
MFRA President Alexei Tabone and MFA Vice-President and Chairman of the Referees Committee Alex Manfre also addressed those present.