Devis Mangia focuses on need to improve level of players

New Malta national team coach Devis Mangia was officially presented during a press conference at the National Stadium on Friday.

A former coach of the Italy Under-21 side, Mangia will be serving as Head-Coach of the Malta national team until December 2023, therefore leading Malta through the UEFA Nations League in 2020 and 2022, the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in 2021 and the EURO 2024 qualifiers in 2023.

MFA President Bjorn Vassallo said that the choice of Devis Mangia, after the decision to adopt the Italian football philosophy, was a result of the fact that he believed the former Italy Under-21 coach was hungry for a challenge and highly motivated.

Devis Mangia will be making his debut as national coach in a friendly match against Gibraltar which will be followed by another two friendly matches against Liechtenstein and Azerbaijan. All three matches will be played at home during the March national team window.

The newly-appointed Malta national coach thanked Bjorn Vassallo and the MFA for entrusting him with this project.

“This is a very ambitious project and my mission will be that of working hard to reaching the objectives listed in the MFA President’s manifesto. My first target will be that of putting together the staff, not only for the national team but also for the MFA Technical Centre. Only by working hard together, we could achieve results.”

“The objectives should not only be my objectives but our objectives – that of improving the level of the game. The players should always be at the core. We need to work hard to improve the level of the players. That will be our main objective.”

“We need to give a common work philosophy to all within the MFA technical sector,” added Devis Mangia.

The forty-five year old coach would not comment on the level of the local game, saying that he had only watched a handful of matches.

“I will be making the first proper judgement in March when I meet the players for training. The national team call-up will be the proper judgement. This would be continuous assessment where players need to show they deserve their place in the team. Then we would see which players will be there in June and then in September.”

Mangia said that he will try to make the best out of this opportunity to lead the Malta national team.

When asked whether he spoke to former Malta coach Pietro Ghedin or other Italian coaches, Devis Mangia said that rather than relying on others, he preferred seeing things himself.

“When I am contacted with a job offer, I only consider the qualities of the person in front of me. If there is ‘feeling’, a vision and a concrete project, most probably I would accept. If not, I would turn it down. I value the persons in front of me as without them, I would not be able to do anything.”

“To do what I have in mind, I need the support of the association, the MFA Technical Centre, all stakeholders – including the media and the fans.”

“I am a guest here. This is not my project. I will work for the development of the game which is after all your game,” added the new Malta national team coach.

“I prefer to work and we will see what we would be able to do. I have great respect for my predecessors and would like to thank them for the work done. I will put forward my ideas and the players will the first to know what my ideas are.”

Devis Mangia said that although this appointment is of great responsibility, there is no pressure.

“Responsibility yes but pressure no. The target is not to change everything in the short term. Players need to be proud to war the national team shirt and that they deserve to wear it. Achieving results immediately is not necessarily possible but at least they should show the right attitude on the field of play which makes us proud.”

Photo: Copyright domenic aquilina

Meanwhile in his introduction, MFA President Bjorn Vassallo explained that over the past sixty years of national team football, Malta stayed more or less on the same level and for this reason, before the election for the post of MFA President, he had put forward a concise strategic plan pointing out clear objectives at all levels of football and in particular, the technical aspect.

Vassallo said that in the past ten years, the association had invested heavily in the infrastructure, in the next ten years, the MFA will invest everything possible in its core business – the technical aspect. He said the strategic plan had both short-term and long-term objectives meant to improve the level of the game and following his election to the post of President, the Executive Committee aligned itself to the manifesto and therefore now everyone at the association is committed to following this programme.

The MFA President went on to explain that over the past six months, a lot of groundwork was carried out in view of the technical projects and now the association will focus on the restructuring of the administrative part.

The association discussed with three different schools of football – the English, the Spanish and the Italian. Their football philosophy was studied and analysed in order to determine the right way to take in order to have a defined game philosophy for our national teams.

Vassallo stressed that the association wanted to change the whole system and not just the national coach. He said that in his previous position at FIFA, he had the opportunity to assess the technical strategies of other associations and therefore identify the best practices.

Bjorn Vassallo said that what is truly lacking in Malta is professionalism since no team was being run on a truly full professional basis. He said that this project is not his project or that of the association but a national project for everyone and not just for football followers. Vassallo stressed on the need for all stakeholders to work together in order to avoid a situation of club vs country. He said that the motto Forward Together focused on the need to work together for the good of the game.

Vassallo revealed that football in Malta had an annual turnover of over €20 million, not including infrastructural projects, but the social return on investment, including impact on health and social responsibility this goes up to €60 million according to the State of Play study carried out by UEFA.

The MFA President explained that the three projects consisted of the work at the MFA Technical Centre which will continue to focus on the national teams from the A team to the Under-16; the Lega Pro project which will feature a Maltese club in the Italian Serie C and the Foundation which will focus on long-term football development.

As regards the Lega Pro project, Vassallo dismissed suggestions that the level of the competition is low, saying that some of the top Italian players playing in Malta used to play in the Serie D which is of a lower level of the Serie C. He said that the team would be competing with another sixty professional teams from all around Italy. This project will not only provide Maltese players the opportunity to play and train on a professional basis but will provide administrative challenges due to particularly rigid regulations in Italy.

The association is working on the vacuum which this team will leave due to the buyouts and loans from local clubs. He said the Professional Football Committee will be discussing the impact and will be working on a charter to safeguard clubs such as the right to re-buy a player who moves back to the local game.

With regards to the Foundation, which will be managed by a board of governors, this will focus on producing better players for the future. The Foundation aims to five full accessibility to all those who would like to play football.

Programmes to be introduced include one for schools to provide 7-8 year olds the basics, another one is the pathway grassroots to the elite for 11 to 15 year olds divided into three regions where they will be given the best possible training in order to maximise their potential with women, futsal and beach soccer will be included in this programme. The Foundation will also focus on coach education, player welfare, child protection and the medical aspect.