FIFA President Gianni Infantino did not rule out the possibility of Malta hosting a FIFA competition in future on its own or as a co-host. Infantino was addressing the media during a press conference at the Centenary Hall prior to a visit to the works at the MFA Training Grounds, the National Stadium and the opening of the Malta Museum of Football.
MFA President Bjorn Vassallo said that this was an important day for the association as this was meant to refresh whatever has been done over the past months in terms of strategic work which will hopefully help achieve the objectives which the association had put forward in the strategic document on all levels of football: the technical development, good governance, the commercial aspect and sporting infrastructure
Vassallo said that all these aspects had been discussed in the meetings which were held during the morning, including those with the government authorities, and more informally during the event in Valletta with children, the game involving top MFA officials, current and former national team players.
“I think the Malta Football Association has put forward important reachable aims which in my opinion can be achieved only by being humble enough to understand what other member associations in Europe, and not only, and with the support of FIFA and UEFA, we can learn the best practices to bring whatever is good for others to this little country which has, however, a lot of passion for football.”
“The presence of the FIFA president filled me with courage. The discussion we had about the projects being implemented, about the future of football in this country, fills me with more courage to keep on working harder together with the administration and everyone involved in football as we try and help achieve better performances and results, apart from trying to continue with our vision in the social aspect.”
FIFA Presdnet Gianni Infantino said this was a beautiful day of celebration.
“It is a beautiful day of celebration on the occasion of the 120 years of the Malta Football Association. It has a rich history. It is a day of celebration as we open officially the museum. We need to know our history to be able to plan for the future. Malta has an extremely rich history as a country, as an island in the middle of what was the world and what is the Mediterranean. Extremely rich culture and history, also when it comes to football. Malta is a football country and proud member of FIFA.
The FIFA President praised Bjorn Vassallo for how he is running the association.
“He is doing extremely well. We have seen the strategy document, the vision which was transformed into a strategy, maybe with a few elements of that from his experience at FIFA.”
“The FIFA World Cup is won by only one country out of 211 but actually the 210 others can also be world champions because the ‘world cup’ for Malta is the progress for boys and girls … we had some boys and girls this morning with this incredibly important school programme which is done jointly between the Malta FA and the Ministry for Education.”
“It is so important to educate our children, use football for education. For this reason, I want to thank Bjorn, all his team and everyone at the MFA, all those who promote football here in Malta and Gozo because football is much more than the sport, football brings values, football brings respect, football teaches a lot of things and in this respect, we had a very important meeting with the Prime Minister earlier today where we discussed the cooperation between football in Malta, the government and FIFA in promoting our investing in infrastructure, investing in technical development at the elite level in order to achieve better results on the pitch but also on the grassroots level. We want to promote football in Malta and the world,” continued Infantino
“I also had a meeting with the Minister for Tourism at the Hibs Stadium, which is also a beautiful venue. As president of FIFA, to be in a country which is breathing football is a reason to be smiling, to be happy and joyful to be here to celebrate as we strive to make Malta shine in Europe and the entire world. “
The FIFA President said that his first objective of this visit was to come here to see how football was developing. “I wanted to see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears if the vision which has become a strategy of Bjorn and his own team is put in place and I can say yes.”
“The second objective was to meet the Prime Minister and the ministers to assure them about the need for cooperation and work together. In the past FIFA was always speaking about autonomy .. our philosophy is completely different. We work together as a team – federation, government and FIFA and the confederations as well. The third objective was to celebrate – the museum, the event with the children and we even played football with the legends.”
When asked regarding the possibility of Malta hosting a FIFA competition in future, the FIFA President said “We both have the wish to host some international events in Malta, I don’t know if alone or in co-hosting with another country.”
“At FIFA, we have the ambition to organise our youth competitions on a yearly basis rather than every two yers. One of the objectives of my vision is to increase the opportunities to organise events. “
“In Malta, you have everything – the sun and the see, pitches, football culture, security, new infrastructures are being built and developed and should be ready very soon. My thanks go the government in this respect because we need this support and when everything will be ready, there will be opportunities for Malta to organise such events. Malta has to be a model, an example for other countries. We usually speak about big countries but there are many more countries in the world, like Malta, and we need to realise that … the world needs to realise that,” added Gianni Infantino.
“We are here to organise football, not organise meetings. We need to start thinking globally, not only in terms of World Cup. We will increase the number of teams but we need to do something for those who are not playing in the World Cup. We are discussing the possibility of organising mini world cups or mundialitos – not only for youth teams but also senior teams from different continents who could be playing together. This would be important both for the ranking and for the experience. To have an event like this here in Malta, it would be very important.”
One of the current proposals which FIFA is considering is that of hosting the World Cup every two years, rather than four. Infantino is not worried the competition will lose prestige.
“We will see what the feasibility study will bring. Today we have some prestigious competitions like the UEFA Champions League, the Premier League or the Serie A which are played every week and they do not lose prestige. On the contrary, they gain prestige by being played on a yearly basis. What is important is to see what is good for football globally … what the fans in the world want to see. If they want to see national, continental or global competitions, we need to follow their wishes.”
“When I travel around the world, especially outside Europe, I am told that we have to give it is our responsibility to give opportunities … to give hope to the people around the world.”
“We need to look at how we are organising competitions FIFA in reality is organising just one event every 48 months. We need to think about how we can do more for global football whether it is a world cup or other events,” added Gianni Infantino.
When asked regarding the controversy surrounding the proposed Super League, Infantino stressed that FIFA always made it clear that competitions should always be organised within international structures.
“We made this very clear many times. I have been participating myself in such discussions for more than 20 years, every now and then. But we need to focus on the real issues of football and top professional football, not only in Europe but around the world: how we can restore competitive balance for clubs and national teams, how make sure that the whole transfer system does not go crazy, we need to help the players, the clubs, the associations. We here are the product of what football has been so far.”
“At the top of the pyramid is FIFA, the confederations, the associations, the leagues, the clubs, the players and at all the levels … if you play as a boy, as a girl on Sunday morning in small clubs, you must have the dream to play at the top at the club and with the national team. We have the responsibility and duty to make sure that these possibilities are real. We have to look at the whole football eco system, the economic system and also at other competition structures – global, continental and national.”
Speaking about the incident of Christian Eriksen, the FIFA President said that this showed what are the important things in life.
“When something like this happens, and it could have ended up as a tragedy and thank God it was not, it brings us down to earth and shows us what are the real important things in life. Thank God everything went well. “
“COVID showed us how vulnerable we are as it brought the world to a standstill. Football has to play an important role in reconnecting people and uniting countries.”
The FIFA President said that FIFA was the only sports organisation in the world to release a COVID-19 Relief Plan, worth USD 1.5 billion, without which football would have stopped completely in some countries.
“We want the situation to improve and see spectators back in the stadiums, Football has such an important effect on people.”
One FIFA initiative which Maltese clubs could benefit from is the creation of a clearing house for the transfer system and transfer payment with regards to training compensation. In this way, if a club wants to buy a player, the training compensation solidarity payment has to go through a FIFA system with the money going directly to the club.
Meanwhile Bjorn Vassallo said that the project meant to create a professional team to take part in the Italian Serie C was put on the backburner due to the COVID pandemic.
“We moved in new directions, trying, thanks to good performances of national team and performances at club level in past years, to showcase our best development players abroad but this is only for the short term.”
“For the long term through the foundation Inhobb il-Futbol, we aim to produce better players for the future in all aspects, not only the technical aspect but also the player welfare which for us, being an island, creates difficulties: maybe not too much enthusiasm to go and challenge yourself out there. This we are trying to change though the work we are doing with our boys and girls in our clubs, academies and technical centre. This is in my opinion the way forward for our football to grow. We need to challenge ourselves in Malta but also internationally. This is part of our strategy and hopefully in the years to come we would reach this objective,” concluded Bjorn Vassallo.