MFA seeks exemption for training of national teams

The MFA will be asking the Superintendent for Public Health for an exemption for national teams to start preparation later this month for forthcoming commitments as per Article 2 of Legal Notice 93 of 2021.

Speaking during a press conference at the end of a meeting of the MFA Executive Committee, MFA President Bjorn Vassallo said that the premature termination of the football season 2020/21 affects the national teams.

A first exemption was granted last month as the national team could prepare for the first match from the European Qualifiers against Russia at Ta’ Qali and the two matches away from home against Slovakia and Croatia.

“Just like other national teams in other sports, our national teams from the senior team to the youths have international commitments – UEFA and FIFA – as from June. Therefore we expect to be treated in the same way and the senior national team, the Under-21, the women’s national team and all youth national teams are given the authorisation to start their preparation. Clubs have been hit hard, God forbid, the national teams will be hit as well. For all the efforts being made by the association, which is clearly giving results at all levels, I believe it would be a disgrace for the authorities not to grant this permission, as per the legal notice, not to prepare psychologically, physically and tactically our athletes – most of whom, earn their living through football.”

“We all know what happened against the Faroe Islands in September. A game which cost us promotion and winning the UEFA Nations League group apart from the considerable bonuses we lost. In the last five minutes, the players physically and psychologically collapsed after months of being unable to train due to the legal notice and we lost …. not because we are not up to standard – as the other games clearly showed otherwise. God forbid, this happens once again as we would have thrown away all the good work we did over the past year.”

In the last week of May and the beginning of June, the senior side and the Under-21 national team will be travelling to Austria for a training camp. A training camp during which both teams are expected to play friendly matches.

Photo: Copyright Mark Zammit Cordina / Malta FA

Malta hosts Cyprus before two away fixtures against Slovenia and Russia in September. In October, Malta hosts Slovenia and then plays Cyprus away from home. The final two matches are two home games against Croatia and Slovakia in November.

Led by Gilbert Agius as the new coach, the Malta Under-21 side, will kick-off their Group C commitments in September by hosting Northern Ireland. This will be followed by three away fixtures against Russia (September), Lithuania and Slovakia (October) and after hosting Spain, facing Northern Ireland in November.

The Malta Under-19 national team will be playing in Group 5 of the 2021/22 UEFA Under-19 Championship qualifying round in Poland, facing Ukraine, Finland and hosts Poland between October 6 and 12.

The Malta Under-17 national team, on the other hand, will be hosting Group 1 of the 2021/22 UEFA Under-17 Championship qualifying round, facing Turkey, Denmark and Montenegro between October 6 and 12.

With regards to clubs and participation in the UEFA club competitions, Vassallo said “Competitions get underway in the first week of July. Hopefully clubs would be able to start training towards the end of May or the beginning of June. After a long break, players always struggle. The friendly match against Gibraltar in 2014 comes to mind. The league ended in mid-April due to the UEFA Under-17 Championships which were held in Malta that year. We all know what happened during that game. The physiology of athletes is not like a computer … you press a switch and it starts working. It takes time to build progression.”

“Undoubtedly, this early stop will affect clubs but we are in time to save the day in this case. Hopefully, health authorities listen to us and in the coming days and weeks and national teams and clubs participating in European competitions could prepare in the best way possible.”

“One should not forget the heavy investment by our clubs in a year. The turnover of Premier League and Challenge League clubs amounts to 8 million euro and although compared to other small countries, this could be the budget for just one club, for a country like Malta, this is still a considerable amount of money. The turnover of the economy generated by football amounts to 25 million – 30 million if one takes into consideration infrastructural projects. We prepared a strategy in black and white and we are doing whatever possible to develop the game further to reach these objectives. Therefore we cannot be stopped from reaching these objectives due to a situation over which we had no control but where one could find a reasonable compromise. “