National coach Devis Mangia said national team players have to follow the code of ethics they agreed to and signed. Mangia was addressing the media to explain his decisions after the selection of the thirty-man squad ahead of the next two matches from Group H of the European Qualifiers leading to the 2022 FIFA World Cup against Slovenia on Friday October 8 at the National Stadium, kick-off at 20:45 and against Cyprus on Monday October 11 at the AEK Arena in Larnaca, kick-off at 18:00.
Mangia explained that he selected thirty players for this double header as he has more time to work with the players, considering that since the first game will be played on Friday and not on Wednesday, there is the chance for two extra sessions. He said that he was glad that this international window will feature just two matches rather than three and as usual, the team will be trying to do its best in these matches.
The inclusion of England-born James Brown who plays for St. Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership was a welcome addition to the squad.
Mangia said that although, the technical staff made its evaluation of the player, it was thanks to the association that Brown is now available to play for the national team. He said he thinks he is a player who could give something to the national team and said that he could be employed as one of the central defenders or a wing back on the right. Mangia said he was looking forward to meeting him on the pitch for training sessions as due to the current restrictions, the analysis was almost based entirely on video footage.
James Brown sustained an injury a few days ago and missed the last league game but the Malta coach hopes he would be available for this double header. Mangia said that the team manager of the national team is in contact with St. Johnstone and from the information available, it seems the injury is not that bad.
Another new face in the squad is Adam Magri Overend of Floriana. Mangia said that he wanted to send Magri Overend this message that he was performing well and that he has the skills to continue to grow and make it to the senior team. However, he admitted that he could still join the Under-21 national team who will be playing against Lithuania and Slovakia away from home.
With regards to the absence of Hibernians trio Andrei Agius, Bjorn Kristensen and Ferdinando Apap, Mangia said he had already explained the reason with the players themselves.
“The reason is that we have a code of ethics in this national team which all players signed and have to follow. In my opinion, they did a mistake.”
“I am disappointed because if Hibernians won the game (against Riga FC) and reached the group stage of the UEFA Europa Conference League would have been good for Maltese football. There were these decisions … I waited until UEFA took the decisions. In my opinion, this was the only decision that I could take. The national team players always have to be an example for everyone. This is a decision of the national A team coach and also the decision of technical director because I am also responsible for all the national teams.”
Mangia mentioned an example of a member of the Under-17 national team who was handed a three-match ban after a league game. He said he called the player to his office and asked him what he should do and the player said that he deserved to be sent home.
“We are building something. The players that are in the national team are the protagonists of this big change but we also have some responsibilities. In this case (Agius, Kristensen and Apap), I took this decision. The decision is for this window and then, in November, if they deserve, from a technical point of view and that they are OK from a physical point of view, it would be possible for me to call them.”
Referring to criticism with regards to the players’ condition after the triple header against Cyprus, Slovenia and Russia earlier this month, Mangia said he will answer this criticism with work and dedication.
The Malta coach stressed that he would allow no one to criticise his staff.
“I will allow no one to say that my staff is not professional. Because we are not professional, we are super professional. You can ask all the players who came with the national team till now if I am right in saying this or not.”
He said that he could not understand this criticism because all over the world, after playing for the national team immediately join their club.
“When somebody wants to report the words of someone else, in this case, my words, has to report the right words. Because I said ‘Coach, if this is a problem, speak with your president to speak with the other eleven presidents of the Premier League and if everybody agrees, we can also take care of the recovery of the day after. Even if this, according to FIFA rules, is not our duty.'”
“Another thing which I did not like … but this is more a question of style … when I speak with a coach about a player of about football in general, the conversation stays between me and the coach. “
Mangia said that this was all due to the fact that Birkirkara had a player injured and another one tired. He added that injuries can happen.
“To build something and create something, we have to work together collectively to succeed. We have to work and look at the big picture. The big picture for me, and hopefully for everyone, is the development of Maltese football. This is what for me is really important, We have our targets but to achieve these targets we have to work together,” said Devis Mangia.
Meanwhile Yannick Yankam of Birkirkara is ruled out of these two matches due to a health issue and had to be hospitalised. He will not be replaced and therefore the squad is now made up of twenty nine players.