The Malta Football Association announced the appointment of Tom Saintfiet as the new coach of the national team.
Saintfiet, from Belgium, takes over the reins of the national team with immediate effect. He succeeds Pietro Ghedin whose five-and-a-half-year tenure at the helm of the national team came to end after the Malta’s final 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovakia last Sunday.
Aged 44, Saintfiet is a UEFA Pro qualified coach with a wealth of experience in international football, having worked as national coach of several countries, mostly in Africa and Asia.
Saintfiet was awarded the job after emerging as the stand-out candidate in a thorough evaluation exercise carried out by the Malta FA Technical Centre over the past months. His credentials are also endorsed by the Belgian FA.
“Saintfiet’s footballing knowledge and qualifications allied with his vast experience in international football where he has coached several developing nations, made him the outstanding candidate for the post of Malta coach,” Norman Darmanin Demajo, the President of the Malta FA, said.
“We are pleased that Saintfiet has accepted our offer to become national coach and we are convinced that he will do an excellent job both for the national side and as a prominent member of our technical sector.”
Saintfiet, who took up coaching at the young age of 24 after his playing career was curtailed by injuries, expressed his satisfaction at his appointment as the new Malta coach.
“I’m honoured to be the new national coach of Malta,” Saintfiet, who is also the author of the book ‘Trainer Zonder Grenzen’ (Trainer Without Borders), said.
“My ambition is to help the Maltese national team move forward and also assist in the long-term development of Maltese football at all levels with the backing of all the stakeholders.”
Saintfiet’s first match in charge of Malta will be the friendly against Estonia, to be played on 12th November, 2017 at the National Stadium.
The Belgian will be presented to the media in the coming days.
WHO IS TOM SAINTFEIT?
Born in 1973 in Mol, Tom Saintfeit began his coaching career at the age of 24, becoming the youngest manager in Belgian football.
Until 1997, he played as a defender for a number of professional Belgian clubs, including Westerlo, Leuven, Lommel, Verbroedering Geel and Boom, but a succession of serious knee injuries forced him to retire from football at an early age.
After moving into coaching, Saintfiet coached clubs in countries like The Netherlands, Finland and Qatar.
His ambition of working as a national team coach was realised in 2008 when he took charge of Namibia. His first job as senior national team head coach was a success as, under his guidance, the ‘Brave Warriors’ went from being a modest team with limited success to a respected side that started winning important matches.
As a result, Namibia climbed more than 30 positions in the FIFA rankings.
His impact didn’t go unnoticed as Saintfiet made a name for himself on the African continent, going on to coach Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Malawi and Togo. He led his teams to some prestigious results, including a 2-2 draw for Ethiopia, made up of local-based players, against a star-studded Nigeria.
In 2012, the Nigerian Football Federation offered Saintfiet the position of Technical Director but this proposal was withdrawn a few months later as a result of internal issues.
Notwithstanding this controversy, Saintfiet was last year shortlisted as one of the candidates for the post of Nigeria coach.
In recent years, the 44-year-old Belgian had short spells as national coach of Asian countries like Yemen and Bangladesh. His last job was as national coach of Trinidad & Tobago.
Many of his contracts were short-term and project-based, mostly due to the limited funds of the national associations that employed him.
Saintfiet, who speaks fluent Dutch, English, French and German, has taken charge of 53 official FIFA A national team matches. In Belgium, he is ranked fourth on the list of coaches with most national team matches, after Guy Thys, Marc Wilmots and George Leekens.
Saintfiet holds a bachelor’s degree in sports and business psychology, a physical football coach licence (1, 2 & 3) and a UEFA PRO licence. He is a product of the Belgian football school but also influenced by many other footballing cultures as the Dutch, German and Italian.
Until this day, Saintfiet works as a football analyst for Belgian, British and African television and radio channels.
Furthermore, he has also been part of the voting panel of the ‘World Soccer’ magazine.
In 2015, Saintfiet was asked to cooperate on a book entitled ‘Trainer Zonder Grenzen’ (Trainer Without Borders) in which he looks back on his coaching career so far and his footballing philosophy.