THE FORMER MALTA INTERNATIONAL WHO DIDN’T LET MENINGITIS STOP THEIR FOOTBALL CAREER

Maria Coppola is a former Malta International currently coaching in the Sliema Wanderers youth setup.

The 44-year-old has a wealth of experience to her name having played football all over the world.

She recently published a book about her career which looks into the beginning of women’s football in Malta and how she fell in love with the sport.

Maria Coppola during her playing days.

Speaking to Maltese Football, Coppola spoke about her first memories of football: “My father started to take me to the Infetti sports ground in Birkirkara, he was involved in a football organisation there called Birkirkara Falcons.

“It was here where I started to kick a ballfor the first time, almost every Saturday with boys from the age of 10 I wouldget involve and start to love the game.”

At the age of 17, Coppola started playing competitive football in a five-a-side league.

She explained how she developed her skills, working her way up the structure: “In 1992, I started playing football with Depiro in a five-a side-league, it was organised by Luxol.

“Then in 1994, I started to play in a seven-a-side league which was organised by San Gwann, it wasn’t until then when interest started to grow in female footballers.

“A selection of players from the San Gwann league travelled to The Czech Republic to take part in a tournament.”

Mario Coppola travelled to The Czech Republic in 1994 in order to play football.

The Sliema Wanderers youth coach had previously emigrated to Australia with her family at a young age but returned to Malta after three months.

Some may say it was fate but in 1995 whilst taking part in a seven-a-side tournament at the Infetti Sports Ground, Coppola was being watched by American scouts.

She spoke about the experience saying: “As interest continued to grow in women’s football, the Malta Football Association organised a seven-a-side tournament at the Infetti Sports Ground.

“An American scout watched me play there and noticed my skills, I was invited to play in the country and it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. I went to play there for five years.”

Following the Millennium, Coppola returned to her homeland where she went on to play in a fully competitive football league.

“After my wonderful experience abroad I came back to Malta and started playing in an 11-a-side league at Pace Grosso, Melita,” explained the 44-year-old.

“In 2001, a selection of women were called up to play for Malta in Mozzecane, Italy. It was this moment which started to increase the interest in the Women’s National Team.”

Maria Coppola played all over the world during her career.

10 years after taking part in a seven-a-side league, the 44-year-old was again on the move, this time to France.

After signing a deal with US Le Pecq the left-winger was quickly snapped up by French Giants, Paris Saint-Germain where she had a succesful trial.

However, despite the big move Coppola started to suffer health problems: “A year later I had a trial with PSG.  I had a very good start at the club but unfortunately, I got sick with Meningitis and had to take a break from the game for some time.

“As my health improved I returned back to Malta and joined a team from Imgarr during the 2011/12 season, we had a great season winning the league, so it was a good return to the country.”

Maria Coppola (right) with former PSG star Pauleta (left)

The former PSG star finished by looking back at her career before speaking about her future plans in the game: “The lesson I’ve learned throughout my football career is that you should never loose heart and always look forward no matter what happens.

“Since I have retired from football I have startedconcentrating on my coaching career and am delighted to be involved with a bigclub like Sliema.”

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