The nurseries of Senglea Athletic, St. George’s and Vittoriosa Stars have joined forces to form the Cottonera United Youth Nursery which will be taking part in the Under-15 and Under-17 competitions organised by the Youth Football Association. The news was revealed during a press conference which was held at the premises of the Senglea Athetic Youth Nursery on Wednesday.
Senglea nursery president Stephen Spiteri said this was a historic day for football in Cottonera as the three nurseries had set aside any possible differences between them and joined forces for the benefit of football in the three cities.
Spiteri said that this decision was not taken lightly but was the result of serious thought and analysis. He explained that back in 2009, the Senglea Nursery had presented a report about the situation of the nursery. Although it had done its very best to function in a most professional manner by opening new premises and the Tal-Ponta football ground and organising activities in order to attract more children to the nursery, there were only a few new registrations.
The main problem was the fact that Cottonera has an ageing population with fewer children. To make matters worse, the nurseries in Cottonera had to compete with other nurseries from neighbouring towns and cities. It is easy for a good young player to attract the interest from a more established nursery or even he chooses to leave the nursery to move to a more established one.
The report highlighted the fact that by 2013, even if all children had to register with the nursery there would still not be enough children in able to form a team in particular categories.
Spiteri said that even now, the nurseries are facing such problems to the extent that in the Under-17 League, St. George’s withdrew from the competion, Vittoriosa had to give walk-overs while Senglea played a number of matches with less than eleven players on the field of play.
Over the past year, the three nurseries discussed the matter and finally reached an agreement to join forces as this was the only way all would benefit. The Senglea Nursery president argued that this was the only way forward as otherwise, nurseries would eventually close their doors.
The three committees of the three nurseries agreed on this proposal and in January 2010 met the then MFA President Dr Joe Mifsud where they explained this proposal. This was analysed by a board which included MFA vice-presidents Carmelo Bartolo and Ludovico Micallef, executive committee members Joe Micallef and Bjorn Vassallo and the presidents of the three parent clubs and the three nurseries.
The three nurseries then proceeded to work on writing the statute of the Cottonera United Youth Nursery.
Spiteri explained that the three nurseries will not be disbanded but will continue to exist since the main purpose of the nurseries was that of providing their parent clubs with players in future. However for the Under-15 and Under-17 competitions, organised by the Youth FA, the three nurseries will be fielding one team under the name of Cottonera United.
Qualified coaches appointed from the Cottonera United Youth Nursery committee will select a 22-man squad for both the Under-15 and Under-17 categories, from the three nurseries. This squad, which will be called Team A, will participate in the Youth FA competitions. The remaining players in the two categories will be playing in Team B who will take part in friendly matches and tournaments organised by other nurseries.
The statute was approved by the committees of the Senglea Athletic Youth Nursery, Senglea Athletic Football Club, Vittoriosa Stars Youth Nursery, Vittoriosa Stars Football Club and St. George’s Football Club and Youth Nursery.
St. George’s president Chris Agius explained that each nursery will continue to have its own retained list of players. He said that the statute caters for all the functions of the Cottonera United Youth Nursery including the distribution of UEFA funds which are vital for all football nurseries and the possible participation of one of the parent clubs in a UEFA competition which would require that the nursery of that particular club to take part in youth competitions.
The Cottonera United Youth Nursery committee will be made up of two members each from the three nurseries.
Vittoriosa Stars Youth Nursery president Charles Callus explained that the logo of the Cottonera United Youth Nursery was designed by Andrew Bugeja, who is a member of the Vittoriosa nursery committee. He explained that at the basis of the logo is the ball with the three colours of the three nurseries being represented. The figure of a player shooting the ball at a distance shows that the nursery is looking at this project on a long-term basis. The bastion symbolise the unity with which Grandmaster Cottoner united the three cities with the bastions.
Callus said that the colours will be neutral colours but the shirts will include the colours of the three nurseries – red, sky blue and yellow.
Stephen Spiteri concluded by saying that this proposal received the full backing of the Youth Football Association and hopefully the statute will be approved by the Malta Football Association so that as from next season, Cottonera United will compete in the Under-15 and Under-17 competitions.
Meanwhile Youth Football Association president Fr Hilary Tagliaferro expressed his support for this proposal which he said could be a model for other small nurseries. He pledged the association’s support with regards to the necessary changes in its regulations and that of the MFA so that this amalgamation would go ahead as planned.
He finally pledged financial support to the Cottonera United Youth Nursery with a €500 donation from the Youth FA and another €500 from the Maurice Mizzi Foundation of which he is a member.