WHAT CAN MALTESE FOOTBALL DO TO BECOME A BIGGER FORCE IN EUROPE?

The question has been on the lips of almost everyone involved in the beautiful game in Malta for some time now. Therefore, MalteseFootball.com have drafted in some of the biggest names on the Island to answer it.

As of August 2018, the Maltese Premier League ranks 45th out of 55 members in the UEFA coefficient.

The 2017–18 season saw the league winner qualify for the first qualifying round for the UEFA Champions League.

The second and third-placed teams also get European football, but by entering the UEFA Europa League in the first qualifying round and the preliminary rounds respectively.

There is a third Europa League place available for Malta’s domestic cup competition winner, known as the FA Trophy.

In the event of the winner of the FA Trophy qualifying for Europe through their league position, then the fourth-placed team in the league takes a place in the Europa League’s preliminary round.

Red Bull Salzburg’s Hee-Chan Hwang (Left) outruns Hibernians defender Martin Kreuzriegler (Right) during a UEFA Champions League qualifier.
(Photo by KRUGFOTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Gżira United manager Darren Abdilla recently took his side from the second tier to the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round after beating UE Sant Julià in the preliminary round.

Abdilla discussed the priorities needed in order to move the league forward and for it to compete against other domestic leagues: “There are a lot of things to be done, but we need to prioritize them.

“We definitely need to restructure our league with those playing professionally and the amateur sides playing in other one.

“I do not agree that we have to reduce clubs but we need to differentiate those who enjoy the game and want to continue to play the beautiful game and go to work and those who make huge investments and have a professional set-up.

“I believe that this can happen with the help of the government and the association which needs to distant its self from the clubs.

“Also, a strategy towards young talented players should be adopted. Our nurseries have an important role in the community and we should let all the children take part in football, but then those which shows the most desire, and have talent should move away from the nursery and participate in a competitive environment from the age of 10.”

FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Malta and England.
(Photo by Tullio Puglia – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

In recent years, players such as Myles Beerman, Andrea Borg and Marcus Grima have moved to England to pursue their career. With better academy setups at professional sides, this is evidence to support Abdilla’s point regarding a better system for both professional sides and youth players.

Someone who has experienced both Maltese football and English Football is former Birkirkara and current Matlock Town youth coach Justin Tellus.

The former defender made 14 appearances in the Europa League with two coming against Dinamo Moscow in 2001. He is now the Development Manager at Matlock having seen players such as Max Hunt go on to play for Championship side Derby County.

Tellus told MalteseFootball: “The development of young players in Malta needs to be changed for the good of the Maltese national team and Premier League.

“There are a lot of talented players in Malta that are under 16 however, they are not developed to the required physical, technical and tactical standards for when they reach the ages of 17 to 20. This period is a key stage for any player in their career.

“The lack of homegrown players and the quality is having an effect on the Premier League and National Team.”

Patrick Roberts (Right) takes on Myles Beerman (Left) during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Rangers and Celtic.
(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Former Malta U21 goalkeeper Matthew Calleja Cremona recently made his 100th appearance in the Maltese Premier League. The 24-year-old started his career with Pembroke before making the switch to Floriana in 2015.

After a brief return to Pembroke, the talented shot-stopper signed for St Andrews in July 2018.

Calleja Cremona has expressed his views on how Maltese football can improve saying: “It is very simple, to improve Maltese football we need clubs competing in the Premier League that satisfy certain criteria which classifies them as a professional club.

“They will have members of the squad that have football as their full-time job.

“The way forward is for clubs to have long-term projects where they invest heavily in their complex which will help them become self-sustainable, instead of being dependent on any individual that helps the club financially.”

After speaking to a number of names involved in the Maltese game, there are a number of reoccurring factors. This mainly looks at turning the league professional and ultimately an investment in the youth game to develop future players.

As shown in the data below, the top three sides in the country have between 44 to 48% players in their squad from a foreign country.

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