MFA President Norman Darmanin Demajo urged clubs to adopt a more professional approach especially after the national team training scheme had been scrapped mainly due to the request by clubs to have players at their disposal.
The first national team training scheme was adopted just after the 12-1 defeat to Spain in 1983. Since then the scheme was changed several times Since the election of Norman Darmanin Demajo as MFA President, the scheme was being reviewed every few months but in recent weeks, the Premier League Clubs Standing Committee wanted to review the scheme once again in view of the fact that Malta have no competitive matches until September 2014.
MFA Chief Executive Officer Bjorn Vassallo explained that following discussions between the clubs and the association, the MFA agreed to give much more space to clubs’ requirements and now the national A team squad and the Under-21 squad will be called just a few days before an international fixture. Therefore the national squad will no longer train together on Mondays and Tuesdays but only for a week before the game.
In the weekend before international matches, no Premier league matches will be played as these will be anticipated to the mid-week.
This is also being done when taking into consideration the fact that as from next year, UEFA will introduce the “week of football” concept with international matches being played over nine double-headers. Teams will play either Thursdays and Sundays, Fridays and Mondays, or Saturdays and Tuesdays, unlike the current system where international matches were being played on Fridays and Tuesdays.
The association will still continue to monitor the players in the national team squad and physiological tests will be carried out every three months to check they physical fitness of players. As a benchmark, they are being compared to the average of the Italian Serie A players and now lie just a few percentage points behind the Italian players.
Since the players will no longer train with the national team on a regular basis, the association will no longer pay for medical expenses and insurance. Clubs used to receive around €4,000 per player per each national team appearance and will now start to receive €6,000 per player per national team appearance.
Bjorn Vassallo said the association will continue to invest on the MFA Technical Centre and has just bought a system for match-analysis.
MFA President Norman Darmanin Demajo admitted that he is sceptical of how this will affect the national team as he believes clubs are not in a position to replace what players were being offered at the MFA Technical Centre.
Darmanin Demajo said that salaries some clubs give to the their players justify training on a professional basis and not just training for a couple of hours in the evening. He appealed to clubs to adopt a more professional approach and ‘full-time’ players should be asked to attend morning training sessions as well.
The MFA President warned players that now they can no longer take it for granted that once they are part of the national squad, they are there to stay as the new system of calling players just a few days before an international game allows for the flexibility it could not have before.
Meanwhile Norman Darmanin Demajo outlined the challenges for the coming year in the traditional end-of-the-year speech during the Council meeting.
He said that 2013 was a year of success for him especially after the overwhelming support he received in the election which was held during the AGM. He said that although elections tend to be divisive, the result gave him a greater push to continue working for the good of the game.
The MFA President said that with regards to infrastructure, he was pleased to secure the funds for the remaining projects through a four-year co-operation agreement with the government. The government will therefore contribute funds to clubs through the association. Therefore the dream of having each member club with adequate training facilities will soon come true.
For clubs to survive, we need commercialisation a certain degree and this was possible with the establishing of limited liability companies. Commercialisation would allow income which would help clubs to survive.
He went on to say that the association will now turn its main focus on coaching education as there was a lack of qualified coaches and the association wanted to improve the level of coaches.
Norman Darmanin Demajo said the main challenges for 2014 are the revision of the MFA Statute and regulations and the new format for the National Leagues.
“We are all on the same side, we are part of the clubs and we will not do anything to harm clubs,” stressed the MFA President. “We will hold meetings to take the general feel. We are here to be of service to clubs. We need to learn from other countries in order to be in line with them for the good of the game. No one will impose. We will take a look at the format and see what would improve the competitiveness. I am confident the Council will take a decision which is for the good of the game.”
Darmanin Demajo concluded by confirming that FXDD will renew their contract as national team sponsor. Discussions are also at an advanced stage with Maltco Lotteries over the sponsorship of the FA Trophy while discussions with Bank of Valletta are expected to start soon as the contract expires at the end of the season.