The work in the various sectors within the Malta FA Technical Centre and the performance of the national teams were the focal points of the Association’s third General Assembly for this year, held on Tuesday at the Centenary Hall.
Malta FA President Bjorn Vassallo told the assembly that the progress of the national teams in the last three years must be viewed in the context of Goal 1 (investment in the technical set-up and the implementation of a unified game philosophy for our national teams) and Goal 3 (launch and co-ordination of the first projects of the Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation) of the Association’s Strategy for the period 2020-24.
“As Malta FA President, I am satisfied that, at the top of the local football pyramid, we have experienced positive situations that show that we are moving in the right direction,” Vassallo said.
“I must say that it has been anything but plain sailing, especially when considering the incredible difficulties encountered globally over the past three years.”
Vassallo cited statistics to provide an analytical insight into the progress achieved by the men’s and women’s senior national teams. The men’s national team managed to improve its FIFA ranking from 186 to 168th, enjoyed a run of seven consecutive positive results (the best sequence ever for the national team), kept four consecutive clean sheets, and attained 15 positive results from a total of 28 matches.
In addition to equalling its best ever tally of points (five) during a World Cup qualifying campaign, the average age of the national team players has been reduced from 28.2 to 25.8 years within a couple of years.
For their part, the women’s national team have improved their position in the FIFA Women’s Ranking from 101 to 88th, registered nine positive results out of 21 matches, two consecutive positive results and two successive clean sheets. The women’s national team also equalled their record of points (seven) in the World Cup qualifiers while the average age of the squad is 23 years.
In his introduction, Dr Angelo Chetcuti, the Malta FA General Secretary, highlighted the main activities and initiatives undertaken by the Association in pursuit of its technical objectives for both males and females.
Amongst others, Dr Chetcuti provided an update on the Association’s efforts to increase and retain participation rates in the game at all its levels, from grassroots to the elite level.
Photos courtesy of Domenic Aquilina / Malta FA
Update on technical and IFF projects
A number of administrators and coaches working within the Technical Centre and the Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation (IFF) gave an overview of the ongoing projects aimed at achieving Goal 1 and Goal 3 of the Malta FA strategy.
Kurt Formosa, the Chief Football Officer who is responsible of the Technical Centre and the IFF, focused on the Elite Player Performance Project, the creation of the ‘Enter the Next Level’ programme and plans to further strengthen player development within the Malta FA technical sector.
All these projects complement the Technical Centre’s priority to adopt a unified football philosophy which has been gradually implemented across all men’s national teams. Formosa explained that, regardless of any changes in coaching and technical personnel, the approach and philosophy remain the same.
The work carried out in recent years has enabled the Malta FA Technical Centre to embark on the ‘Enter the Next Level’ project which has the following goals:
- Introduction of the U14 development football;
- Introduction of new festival rules (U6 to U13);
- Introduction of U13 festivals throughout the season
Coach Education and Performance Projects
Malta FA Coach Education Cordinator Herman Bugeja outlined the ongoing initiatives and courses related to coach education and the coaching pathway. A total of 155 candidates participated in the coaching courses organised by the Malta FA Technical Centre during season 2020-21 with the number increasing to 285 the following season. It is envisaged that the total of candidates for coaching courses will go up to 383 in season 2023-24.
Luca Pagani, the National Teams’ Fitness Coach, spoke about the goals and projects of the Performance Department, including the Elite Player Performance programme, strength and conditioning, nutrition, mental performance, and fitness testing.
Another active sector within the Technical Centre is Grassroots Development. Ivan Woods, Head of Grassroots Development, expounded on the recently-launched Fun Fit Five Study, a study involving students in three different primary schools who are having a sports exercise session every day. The results attained by the students taking part in this research will be compared with those from three other primary school classes who have not yet had the opportunity to follow a weekly five-day sports exercise programme at school.
The Malta FA has partnered with MCAST and the Education Department in this project. The Fun Fit Five study is linked to the Fun Fit Football programme launched last year with the aim of introducing primary school children across Malta and Gozo to the beautiful game of football. This programme is led by Malta FA coaches and PE teachers.
Concurrently, the Grassroots Development section has also overseen the successful introduction of the Regional Hubs while the UEFA Playmakers, intended for girls, has also proved immensely popular.
Pierre Brincat, the Director of Women’s Football, delved into the work being carried out by this department, particularly the paramaters to assess progress and the targets for the coming years.
The leading objective is to achieve an increase of 15% in the number of girls playing football. The efforts to reach this objective are supported by several ongoing projects, namely UEFA Disney Playmakers, After Schools Project, open days involving regional and local councils, festivals for girls, and School Olympics. These programmes are backed up by a strong coaching education set-up specifically for coaches working in women’s football.
Brincat told the assembly that the Women’s Football Department has also established specific objectives at elite level, including efforts to increase the number of Maltese players playing abroad, and a new strategy for women’s football.
Futsal and beach soccer
A presentation by Mark Marlow, the Head of Futsal and Beach Soccer, focused on the milestones reached by the futsal national team, including the first points obtained in official FIFA matches.
The implementation of the Futsal Academy Development and the Futsal in Schools projects also represent two important milestones for the Malta FA in this sector. Marlow also gave details about the strategy to develop beach soccer in Malta with emphasis on improving the national teams and increasing participation.