The Malta national football team will be pulled from the competition and met with hefty sanctions from FIFA if not allowed to play the World Cup Qualifiers against Russia later this month.
While Lovin Malta is informed that the Malta Football Association is in discussion with health authorities with regards to granting the national team exemption to play its qualifier fixtures, the outcome of the decision could cause “irreparable damage” to the sport on the island.
“If we’re not allowed we risk being kicked out of competition and sanctioned big time. Irreparable damage,” a well-informed source told Lovin Malta.
The decision lies within the hands of Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci who said that a legal notice allows her to issue an exemption to national teams in any sports, but only after a “case-by-case consideration.”
Malta is set to play Russia on March 24th at Ta’ Qali national stadium. The remaining two World Cup Qualifiers in March are against Slovakia and Croatia – both being played abroad in countries recording a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Head Coach Devis Mangia has already announced his 30-man squad for the upcoming fixtures, featuring a mixture of veterans and first-timers.
Lovin Malta is informed that under no circumstances will the Russia match be postponed. If Malta ends up not playing, due to health restrictions, then it will be the first time in history that the national team will have to forfeit a fixture.
“It’s a farce. All elite football is playing let alone national team duties.”
Europe’s major football leagues returned to action last summer, albeit behind closed doors and in bubbles. Other major leagues, including the Champions League and Nations League, continue to be played, with most countries abiding by their national team duties despite the concerns surrounding COVID-19.
In Malta, which has recently experienced a spell of success in national football, all leagues have been temporarily suspended as a result of the increase in cases.
There has been discussion of working in bubble concepts, as has been done in major sporting leagues around the world, but nothing has come to fruition as of yet, leaving Maltese football on shaky grounds for the foreseeable future.
Photo Credit: Domenic Aquilina
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