In order for other athletes to replicate the same success she had in her debut season in Serie A, Haley Bugeja believes that the attitude towards sports in Malta needs to change.
“In my opinion, the biggest limitation we have is the attitude,” she said in an interview with Lovin Malta. “There are too many people who, when they think about going abroad, don’t because of this attitude that we’re from Malta and we’re not capable,” she continued.
After a spectacular debut season in Serie A, where she became one of the league’s top goalscorers, Bugeja has managed to inspire the nation and the wider footballing community, often featuring in acclaimed sporting magazines and media houses.
Her 12-goal campaign also earned her the accolade of Serie A’s Best Young Player for the season.
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“I hope that I can be an inspiration for people who say they aren’t capable of doing it,” she said. “If we continue living life with the mentality that we come from a small island, that we don’t have the resources, that we don’t have the professionalism, we are not going to make it.”
Furthermore, Premier League clubs, such as Ħamrun Spartans, are starting to make a more concerted effort to improve their operations to become more competitive domestically and internationally.
“What we have achieved with the men’s and women’s national team speaks volumes,” Bugeja continued. “It’s not an overnight process. It may take years, but however long it takes we need to do it.”
Malta head coach Devis Mangia also reiterated the same sentiment in his post-match conference following Malta’s 3-0 defeat against Northern Ireland over the weekend in which he emphasised the need for local authorities to take sports more seriously.
Mangia’s impassioned press conference follows a two-month ban on organised sports imposed by local health authorities in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking to Lovin Malta in February, Malta Football Association president Bjorn Vassallo also noted how female footballers perform better abroad when compared to men, making reference to the fact that male players are too comfortable at home.
Bugeja is the prime example of the success of local female athletes. On her debut season, she managed to trailblaze through Serie A and has developed a fierce reputation amongst her competitors.
“I need to do my part to continue working now that the first season has passed, other clubs will have studied me better,” she said.
“As an attacker, my ambition is to score as many goals as possible. Having ended the season as Sassuolo’s top goalscorer, I hope to achieve higher next year but I need to do my part to keep fit,” she ended.
From an unknown young girl playing for Mġarr United to Sassuolo’s top goalscorer, Bugeja has had quite the football journey.
To find out more about her humble beginnings and rise to stardom, watch Lovin Malta’s feature with Haley Bugeja below.
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