UEFA Pro Licence course kicks-off

The first ever UEFA Pro coaching course kicked-off at the MFA Technical Centre on Saturday. The course will be held over twenty months with the final assessment due for April 2017

The UEFA Jira Panel in July gave the go-ahead to the Malta Football Association to organise the course for the first time. So far, Maltese coaches had to travel to Coverciano in Italy to obtain the UEFA Pro Licence.

Addressing the candidates on Saturday morning, MFA President Norman Darmanin Demajo discussed problems which were hindering growth and development of the local game.

Mentioning Iceland as an example of a country which made giant strides in recent years, Darmanin Demajo said that scouts visit the country regularly and whisk the top talents to the major professional leagues. He said that although some of the players do return back to Iceland, they still have over seventy-five players playing abroad, becoming full-time professionals.

Among the reasons for this success is the fact that clubs in Iceland give young players the chance to play first-team football and in some cases, young players sometimes move abroad even before reaching the age of playing for the first team. Darmanin Demajo said clubs in Iceland were willing to give their players the opportunity to play abroad. On the other hand, some clubs in Malta made it difficult for their players to move abroad. He said that this could be understandable but it created a problem due to this selfish attitude.

Another important reason was the fact that even at grassroots level, the vast majority of coaches held UEFA A or B licences. He said that there was a need for more top-level coaches in Malta as this was one of the pillars for future growth.

The MFA President stated the five points the association was focussing on. The first priority was facilities and infrastructure at club level where the association would have spent €25 million. A second priority was coach education where the association had appointed Robert Gatt as technical director and is now surrounded by a team which is committed to improving the level of coaching. A third priority was exporting more of our players – young players were being offered contracts although whether they were accepting these offers was another problem. He said local players were living comfortably in Malta and found it difficult to detach themselves – most players are not hungry enough and are rather spoilt.

Another priority is the need to develop our own professional football league. He said this was something which could be done as finances and pitches were already there. Darmanin Demajo said that if our players do not move abroad, the association could create a model for clubs to be professional, therefore creating an environment where players could play professionally in Malta. The last priority was long term growth and sustainability for clubs.

The MFA President congratulated the MFA Technical Centre for this achievement of being entrusted by UEFA to hold the UEFA Pro Licence coach. He said it would not be an easy course as the Technical Centre had to keep the standards of other UEFA Pro courses held abroad.

Darmanin Demajo said that by producing more highly-qualified coaches, one would be pushing less qualified coaches to lower divisions. He finally revealed that local clubs aiming to take part in UEFA competitions would soon need to have a UEFA Pro Licenced coach according to UEFA regulations.

Meanwhile UEFA Jira Panel member Dany Ryser, who served as head of the Swiss national youth teams, Director of Coach Education and Technical Director and who also led Switzerland to the FIFA Under-17 World Championship in 2009, spoke to the coaches telling them that two things were of utmost importance in football – having a philosophy of how to play football and have patience. He stressed success was not possible in just two, three years and one needed support from clubs, the association and club owners.

Ryser said that it was unusual for the Jira Panel to allow small countries to organise their own UEFA Pro courses as these usually work in partnership with bigger countries. However the Jira Panel understood that Malta could not do so due to geographical problems in case of partnership with the UK and language in case of partnership with Italy.

Dany Ryser said he was sure this course will fulfil all criteria from the convention which aims to raise the bar. He finally congratulated the MFA Head of Football Coach Education Stephen Grima and the MFA Technical Centre for this achievement.