Malta national football team captain Andre Schembri has warned corruption has infiltrated society at all levels after six under-21 international players were banned for match-fixing offences.
“As a Maltese citizen living abroad, I feel embarrassed to see Malta all over the news again for all the wrong reasons,” Schembri – a striker for Cypriot club Apollon Limassol – told Lovin Malta. “This is the result of a long failed national system where impunity is reigning. I think it is high time we stop dwelling on this issue and accept the fact that corruption has trickled into our society at all levels.”
“Seeing our youngsters being absorbed into this black hole should encourage everyone to take a step back and see what national culture and educational systems our youngsters are being brought up in.”
Lovin Malta contacted Schembri for his reaction after UEFA banned six Malta under-21 players, two of them for life, for match-fixing offences during European U-21 Championship matches against Montenegro and the Czech Republic. Two of them, Emmanuel Briffa and Kyle Cesare, were banned from football for life.
It represents a massive blow for an extremely promising group of young players, who had finished their European Championship group in fourth place with 11 points – a record for an international Maltese football team.
Emmanuel Briffa (left) and Kyle Cesare right) have been banned from football for life
For Schembri though, the problem is much greater than a few young footballers seeking to make a quick buck on the side.
“This needs to act as a wake up call, not just for the football system, but for us as a country,” he said. “Sports is a reflection of society. To me, this is bigger than football itself. Systems need to be created to protect those putting forward names and severely punish the perpetrators. Malta, as a country, needs to transpire that ‘fear’ that corruption is unacceptable at all levels.”
Schembri urged young Maltese players of goodwill not to lose heart, reminding them that “there is no better feeling in the world than that of having given your all for your national team”.
“I guess if a player, youngster or professional, shows positive aptitudes in training, a great attitude towards football and a strong character I doubt they’ll ever be approached for match fixing,” he said.