National teams head-coaches Michele Marcolini, Manuela Tesse presented officially

Malta national men’s team head coach Michele Marcolini and Malta women’s national team head-coach Manuela Tesse were officially presented on Wednesday during a press conference at the Centenary Hall.

Forty-seven year old Michele Marcolini, who is a former coach of Real Vicenza, Pavia, Santarcangelo, Alessandria, Albinoleffe, Novara and Chievo Verona, takes up his new role as from January 1st on a two-year contract. On the other hand, forty-six year old Manuela Tesse coached Sezze, Torres, Atletico Oristano, Arezzo, Lazio and Pomigliano at club level and worked within the Canadian women’s national team technical staff and served as assistant coach for the Italian women’s national team, coach of the Trinidad and Tobago Under-17 women’s national team and assistant coach to the women’s senior side

Malta FA president Bjorn Vassallo welcomed the two coaches and men’s national team assistant coach Davide Mandelli who was also present.

Vassallo said that the Malta FA is continuing to adopt the strategic approach started in 2020.

“Based on our strategic document, we have important objectives to be reached and originally we were planning to look into measurable outcomes next year. It was planned that by the end of 2023, we would take count of four years of work with regards to the implementation of the programme. However, since we had this situation, we are at the end of 2022, one year before, with a position to continue working strongly on our technical project.”

The Malta FA President stressed that Marcolini and Tesse were not only national team coaches but national team head-coaches.

“Twenty per cent of the work of Manuela and Michele will be the international windows and the A-teams, both male and female, but most of the work is done all year round – the other eighty per cent – when they have to follow with regards to the full development from grassroots to youth development to the elite which is our main project – a unified game philosophy.”

Photos courtesy of domenic aquilina / Malta FA

“As from January, we will continue our technical project which has long-term achievables which also includes a unified game philosophy for the males so far and now, going forward, also for women.”

Vassallo said that when the association was about to decide on who will be the two head-coaches, they looked at specific profiles.

“These profiles brought Michele and Manuela here. We wanted young-aged coaches, hard-working and motivated … people who are self-conscious of the role in which they are going into with strong personality on the pitch and in the dressing room. “

“We want to maximise whatever is the potential. We want to keep the player-dedicated approach we started in 2020. This is why I spoke about long-term achievables and not short-term. The general public would like to see results from the national A teams and I think that the performances and results in the past three years have been encouraging and positive. “

“We will continue to work hard to achieve those and give as much exposure to the national A teams. However I want to remind everyone that in order to have a sustainable future, to bring results and performances which are constant, we need to work hard on the eighty percent … which is outside the international window – the technical project itself and the unified game philosophy.”

The Malta FA President admitted that the two new head-coaches might find different perspectives of how we see things in football but it was crucial that they adapt quickly due to the commitments in the coming months.

The women’s national team will be playing friendly matches in February while the men’s team plays the first EURO 2024 qualifiers in March.

“As a national A team we would like to reach a promotion to a better league in the UEFA Nations League. Something which we have not done in the past three years. These (EURO 2024) qualifiers will be a good opportunity for us to grow. We have to work hard in 2023 trying in order to be in a position to get wha we are aiming for (in the UEFA Nations League) in 2024.”

“With regards to the women’s national team, we are now looking at a new format. We are in League C of a sort of UEFA Nations League set-up and are among the top teams, therefore having quite a number of teams behind us. The idea is not to fall down in the ranking in League C and aim for promotion to League B. If we do not put such objectives, we do not raise the bar,” said the MFA President.

Bjorn Vassallo said that with regards to the grassroots and youth development, the association will continue working hard so that more youngsters would be able to make it to the Under-19 and Under-21 national teams and eventually the senior side. He said that in the past years, this has happened with a number of players in both the men’s and women’s team thanks to the work of the technical set-up of both men’s and women’s football.

New Malta national team head-coach Michele Marcolini said he was proud of this appointment.

“I was lucky to be born in a family which taught me the values of education, respect and sacrifice. The values which I always try to carry with me, both on a human and professional level. I was lucky to transform my biggest passion into a profession and am glad with what I did throughout my career. Experiences which helped me grow. It was a natural route from a player to a coach as I started coaching the team I had just ended playing for.”

“As a coach, I think I am my true self. A balanced person with no extremisms. I like to build cohesive teams, take care of human relationships as I believe that to build a team with the characteristics I like – aggressiveness, working for the same objectives, the understanding and the willingness to achieving results through sacrifice and hard work – you need men, rather than just footballers.”

Michele Marcolini said that when contacted by Malta FA President Bjorn Vassallo, who showed him what the objectives of the association were, what impressed him most was how the association was trying to reach this objectives through a well-defined strategic plan and a unified game philosophy, admitting that this was both a challenge and an opportunity for him.

“One has to acknowledge the work done by Devis Mangia. I saw several games and it is evident that the team has a clear identity. I am aware that I am entering into a ‘well-oiled mechanism’. I will add my touch thanks to my previous experience as a player and later as a coach, in order to continue building on what has already been built.”

Marcolini said that the team definitely moved a step forward with regards the quality of the football they played and the mentality which changed drastically. He said that the three-man defence worked well over the past years and is not aiming to make big changes.

Admitting that Malta has been drawn in a very difficult group, he said that these games could help the team grow in order to be able to face the UEFA Nations League with a different mentality in 2024.

“I want to make sure that my players show respect towards our opponents and have a clear mentality to show respect but being aware that we can make it difficult for any other team. This should be the right mentality which would make fans proud of what we achieve and look ahead of the next UEFA Nations League where we could aim to top the group.”

When asked with regards to his lack of experience as a coach within a national team sector, Marcolini said he was not worried about this.

“There is a first time for everything. Football is football. It is true that there are different levels but I believe that I gained valuable experience, more as a player, rather than as a coach. This taught me a lot. Working on a human level is of utmost importance. If I manage to this with the players, the lack of international experience could be secondary. The enthusiasm and the willingness to do well is there and I am really proud of being here. We will do our best to make our national teams as competitive as possible.”

The new Malta head-coach said that he will watch as many Premier League matches as possible in order to get to know the players better. Bjorn Vassallo revealed that the association will be asking Premier League clubs to allow the players to meet the new coaches and the rest of the national team technical staff towards the end of February for two to three days.

Marcolini’s debut as coach will be on March 23 as Malta plays North Macedonia away from home but three days later, Malta hosts Italy.

“Having the possibility to meet Italy is emotional for me and a reason to be proud playing Italy in front of a packed stadium but above all, I will be the Malta coach. I will be Italy’s opponent coach and will prepare the game in the best way possible so that the players could perform at their best.”

Meanwhile new women’s national team head-coach Manuela Tesse said she was proud of this appointment and said that being in Malta felt like being at home since she hails from another island, Sardinia. While thanking the the Malta FA and President Bjorn Vassallo for this opportunity, she described herself as a warrior and as being very ambitious.

Tesse said that over the past years, she knew the local players who were playing in Italy. She said that these players have high technical and physical potential and that she looks forward to working with the players and in partnership with clubs.

“Malta has a lot of players with high potential. I watched several games and believe that we can do well. Malta climbed a lot in the ranking, confirming the good work which has been done over the past years. I do not want to be presumptuous but I am very ambitious. Our main focus will be on the newly-launched UEFA Women’s Nations League (which will kick-off in autumn 2023) and the development of all areas related to the women’s national teams.”

“In Malta, I feel at home. When I was young, I played football but there used to be a lot of stereotypes. Luckily, this is no longer the case. I made it thanks to a lot of sacrifice and by fighting stereotypes. I would really take something back from what I have given to the game.”