Malta coach Ray Farrugia (circle) wants Brazilian striker Liliu to play for the national team
Malta’s ongoing football woes has seen the national football association officially apply for citizenship for two Brazilian strikers in an attempt to turn the tide.
The Malta Football Association’s secretary general Angelo Chetcuti confirmed with TVM Sport it has applied for citizenship for two strikers – Ellinton Antonio Costa Morais (Liliu) and Alex De Paixao Alves (Lecão) – after coach Ray Farrugia expressed his desire for them to play for the national team.
Although neither player has lived in Malta for a considerable stretch of time, they could nevertheless be applicable for Maltese citizenship through the new citizenship-by-merit scheme, which allows foreigners to become Maltese if they have given an “exceptional” service in the sports, science, research, art and culture sectors.
Liliu, 28, spent a season at Birkirkara in 2014/2015 and was part of the team which famously took West Ham United to penalties in a Europa League qualification game. He moved to Nea Salimina in Cyprus, briefly returned to Malta to play for Gzira United, and is currently plying his trade for Nõmme Kalju, which won the Estonian league last year.
With 42 goals in 45 games for the Estonian team Liliu will be expected to come right into Malta’s starting 11.
Lecão, 25, is currently playing for Balzan FC, after having spent two seasons with Tarxien Rainbows. He previously plied with his trade with a number of Brazilian clubs, including Parnayba-Pl, Ferroviario and Colo-Colo.
If their applications for citizenship are approved, it would be the first noteworthy use of the citizenship-by-merit scheme since it was launched last year. They could well give a leg up to the national team, which has only won a single game in the past five years.