Following a disappointing result against Northern Ireland over the weekend, Malta’s head coach Devis Mangia is once again calling for local authorities to treat football as a profession and not a hobby.
“A distinction has to be made between elite sport and recreational sport and the people involved in top-level sport should be treated as professionals,” he said in response to a question posed by SportsDesk at the post-match press conference.
“Players who ply their trade in the Premier League and the Challenge League should be considered as professionals, and therefore they must be put in the condition to be professional players.”
Yesterday, Malta lost 3-0 to Northern Ireland in the first of three friendly matches being played at Klagenfurt, Austria.
Despite an optimistic start, a match-deprived Maltese side entered the second half in an unfit state, conceding two goals in just seven minutes to give Northern Ireland a significant lead.
“I think it was clear today the difference in physical conditions between the two teams,” Mangia continued.
Mangia reiterated the need for authorities to take sports more seriously, a call he first made in March when the Maltese government banned all organised sports in light of a surge of Covid-19 cases.
However, the ban on organised sports continued for two months with national teams only allowed to train but not compete as the Malta Football Association was left with no choice but to cancel the domestic leagues.
Consequently, national team players underwent a two-month hiatus with no competitive matches prior to their showing against Northern Ireland over the weekend.
“Today we have experienced it in front of our eyes. It’s difficult not to see the struggles of our players from a fitness point of view throughout,” Mangia said. “The players showed very good attitude and application, but it was clear that the Northern Ireland players had different speed and power and we could never compete against them”.
The Northern Ireland side featured a number of elite athletes, such as Stuart Dallas, primed for match day having played full seasons in their respective leagues.
Mangia also touched on how the ban on organised sports impacted the national team’s performance at the World Cup Qualifiers, despite putting on a brave performance throughout all three games.
“The situation we created by banning organised sport in March meant that we were the only country in Europe to have stopped competitive elite sport and this is the end product,” he said.
Malta’s U21 team also appeared hampered by recent restrictions over the weekend, losing 5-0 against Qatar’s U23 side, the first match under new head coach Gilbert Agius.
Meanwhile, the national team will play its second friendly match against Kosovo next Sunday followed by another friendly three days later against Kazakhstan in Wolfsberg.
Cover Photo Credit: Stephen Gatt
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