MFA President focusses on professional club and Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation during Council Meeting

The project involving the creation of a professional football club, which would take part in the Italian Serie C, and the new Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation were the main items MFA President Bjorn Vassallo focussed on while addressing the Council of the Malta Football Association at the Grand Hotel Excelsior on Monday. Vassallo also explained how the new Malta national coach will adopt a football philosophy which the other national teams from the Under-21 side to the Under-17 will have to follow.

Bjorn Vassallo said that before the election, he had presented a project to the government meant to improve the level of the game. The MFA president added that in other countries, associations who implemented such projects always had the full support of the governments of their countries as otherwise it would be very difficult to implement this. He said that after being elected to the post, he got back to the government to check whether this could be implemented. He revealed that a deal was due to be signed but this had to be postponed due to the current political situation. However discussions resumed in recent days. Vassallo added that there is the go-ahead for this apart from the financial commitment.

For this project to take place, a number of changes within the MFA set-up are necessary. 

Bjorn Vassallo said that so far, each coach of each of the national teams adapted the style according to the players at his disposal. For this reason, the Malta national teams had no defined philosophy. Vassallo stressed that this had to change and that we need to have an identity for our game.

The task of the technical director will be that of setting the strategy for the future. His role will change as the national coach will adopt the philosophy which all national coaches from the senior side to the Under-17 national team will follow. The national coach will be the Head Coach of the Technical Centre while the Head of Football Development within the Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation will focus mainly on the development of the young players, providing wider access to all around Malta and Gozo and coach education. 

The structure being proposed is that of having regional hubs from where the best players are selected and given the best training through the MFA curriculum. 

As regards the national coach, Bjorn Vassallo said that discussions were held with four different coaches with a strong CV who could fill the role that the association was looking for. He admitted that it was not easy but opted for an Italian coach who fits perfectly, also considering the project which will involve participation of a professional club in the Serie C.

Although Vassallo did not reveal the name, the new coach is believed to be former Italy Under-21 national coach Devis Mangia, who also had experiences as coach at Palermo, Spezia, Bari, Ascoli and Universitatea Craiova in Romania.

The MFA President said that the deal has not been concluded yet, but an agreement will be reached hopefully by the end of the year. 

As regards the project involving the setting-up of a professional club to take part in the Lega Pro, Vassallo said that the objective is that of measuring ourselves with who is better than us. The club will have team participating in the Serie C organised by the Lega Pro and a youth team competing in the Campionato Berretti. This league is reserved for the Under-19 teams of the Serie C clubs. He said that this would be providing an excellent opportunity for local players and coaches to play in Italy as they would be playing professional football week in week out. 

Vassallo revealed that a memorandum of understanding should be signed in January. A holding company would then be created by the MFA and the government and this would be operating as a trading company. This team will also follow the same philosophy devised by the Head Coach.

He assured the clubs that the MFA would be discussing with clubs once an agreement with the government, the FIGC and the Lega Pro is concluded since this club would buy or loan in players from local clubs.

The MFA President stressed that this was no battle between the association and the clubs and the support of the government, member clubs and all stakeholders was necessary to have the entire football movement united behind this crucial technical project.

At that point, the association could proceed by appointing the persons to fill in the various roles. He said the Foundation Inħobb il-Futbol is a new vehicle which will follow the philosophy of the Head Coach. The foundation will be administered by a board of governers and a chief executive. The MFA President said that several discussions with the Youth FA would be necessary since the two parties need to work hand in hand to achieve the objectives.  

Among the foundation’s main tasks would be the introduction of a holistic programme for schools in collaboration with Sportmalta, wider accessibilty to football to all around Malta and Gozo, a talent optimisation strategy,  an enhaned pathway from grassroots to elite football apart from a special focus on women’s football, Futsal, Beach Soccer and coach education.

Meanwhile among the items which emerged from the Council was the fact that Malta expressed interest in hosting the UEFA Under-19 Championship finals in 2024 which will also include the play-off for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.

In the mean time, Malta will be hosting qualifying mini-tournaments from the UEFA Futsal EURO, the Women’s Under-17 Championship and the UEFA Regions Cup.

Local clubs would be receiving €1.28 million for providing players to the national teams during their participation in the UEFA Nations League and the European Qualifiers. The sum of around €447,000 will be distributed to nurseries as part of the annual solidarity payments by UEFA.

The Malta national team is expected to play a number of friendly matches ahead of next year’s UEFA Nations League. Three teams were invited to visit Malta in March while two friendly matches against two of the finalists for the EURO 2020 will be played during a training camp in Austria in June. Another high profile match will be played against one of the EURO 2020 finalists is also scheduled for June.

An amendment to the FA Trophy regulations stipulate that as from next season, First Division teams of the Gozo Football League will enter the first round and not the Preliminary Round.