FIFA President Gianni Infantino is optimistic about Malta’s chances to host international tournaments in the future, a sentiment he expressed during his one-day visit to the country as part of the MFA’s 120th-anniversary celebrations.
“There are talks ongoing at FIFA to organise youth competitions on a yearly basis rather than biennial and that would surely increase the possibility of having a tournament here,” he said during a press conference yesterday.
“In Malta, you have everything – the sun, the grounds, the football culture, and the security along with the new infrastructure that is being built and developed and should be ready soon…When everything is ready, there will be opportunities for Malta to organise such events.”
During his visit, Infantino had the opportunity to meet with youth players at Salinos Ground in Valletta and said he was impressed by the work being carried out by MFA President Bjorn Vassallo, particularly in relation to youth development.
“It’s clear that in his strategy document, he did well to take some elements from his experience in working for FIFA and surely leave a very strong impact on Maltese society,” he said.
“Everyone says that the pinnacle in world football is to win the World Cup but that is won by only one country. I believe that one can also win the World Cup by helping with the development of Maltese boys and girls, not only on the pitch but also through the programme that the MFA is carrying out with the Ministry of Education.”
Infantino also met with Prime Minister Robert Abela and Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo during which he emphasised the importance of government cooperation with local football authorities and the need to continue investing at the grassroots level.
“As president, being in a country that is breathing football is a reason to be happy and I’m glad to be here to celebrate while we strive to make Malta shine in Europe and all over the world,” Infantino said.
Infantino was also asked to weigh in on whether he believed football governing bodies adopted a more heavy-handed approach to smaller clubs, whilst being more lenient towards bigger clubs, following UEFA’s recent decision to uphold a ban on Maltese champions Ħamrun Spartans from partaking in the Champions League next year.
“I will not be entering into the merits of UEFA’s decision, it’s up to them to decide, but I think they do have their reasons. Obviously, it’s not an easy situation, because it goes back seven or eight years,” he said.
Following the UEFA decision, Ħamrun said it would consider appealing the sentence before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Meanwhile, UEFA admitted Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid to the Champions League despite their plot to break away and form the European Super League.
Infantino ended his trip with a visit to the MFA training grounds and the national stadium before helping inaugurate the National Football Museum.
Photo Credit: Domenic Aquilina
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