It’s official: Malta’s football performance at an international level has never been worse. Malta currently ranks 176th in the FIFA World Ranking.
The news confirms fears that Maltese football is in a crisis. Earlier this month Malta captain André Schembri highlighted the hopeless situation in a brutally candid interview in which he said a “whole reshuffle” was needed otherwise Malta would keep losing games for another 20 years.
Currently, countries with better ranking than Malta include South Sudan (167), Myanmar (153), Rwanda (107) and Cyprus (87). Iceland, which has a smaller population than Malta, appears in 27th place.
Meanwhile, countries currently ranking worse than Malta include Somalia (205), San Marino (201), Bermuda (184) and Fiji (179).
Malta has never performed very well in the FIFA rankings. Its best position was in 1994 when it ranked in 78th place. Its average position is 129. The basic logic of these calculations is simple: any team that does well in world football wins points which enable it to climb the world ranking.
Lovin Malta spoke to Pippo Psaila who coached Malta until 1994 when the Maltese ranked a much more respectable 83rd. His comments come exactly a year after he penned an article in Times of Malta where he lamented the state of Maltese football 31 years after an ambitious project launched in 1984 by George Abela to invest in the sport.
“We should now be reaping the toils of our labour not struggling as we are scraping the bottom of the barrel,” he had written last year.
Today he says: “My advice was not heeded. In the usual MFA know-it-all syndrome they thought they had the answers to our football problems and we are now 30 years on in a worse predicament.”
“My advice was not heeded. In the usual MFA know-it-all syndrome they thought they had the answers to our football problems and we are now 30 years on in a worse predicament.”
He says the only answer is to sit down with all stakeholders and conduct a thorough analysis which leads to a holistic strategic plan.
“This is how professional sport administrators govern their sport. The MFA must create the correct synergies at ALL levels to enable any national coach to reap the results we all aspire to achieve and which in the past were achieved.”
Regarding Saviour Darmanin’s labelling of Maltese footballers as “mummy’s boys”, Mr Psaila agreed this was partly true.
“But it’s a cultural issue not only a football issue. A change of culture is required and this can be achieved through the national sports school set in motion in 2012 , as tomorrow’s parents coming out of this new educational concept as today’s students will give a new meaning and dimension to sport and education.”
Asked why Malta failed to make money from such a popular sport, Mr Psaila said: “A businessman when looking for a marketing medium looks for a credible, successful, professional, high-integrity medium. Maltese football unfortunately does not offer such qualities. Supporting football is no longer a good cause project…Football has nearly become somewhat of a dirty word!”
“Financial resources are but one of the necessary tools for football to flourish. It’s the management of a host of resources in a structured holistic manner that will lead to sustainable improvement.”
One proposal made by Mr Psaila was for there to be career management of local players eligible for the national team, co-funded by the MFA as a private public partnership with a professional club set up.
“A club must be run like a business where the equity holder does not necessarily run the business but supplies the financial impetus and back bone and where management is left in the hands of the professionals hailing from different specialities.” There should also be better absorption of talent through employment once top quality players end their careers.
Asked whether Malta should reduce the number of clubs so as to avoid having budgets spread so thin, Mr Psaila said this would not solve anything.
“Financial resources are but one of the necessary tools for football to flourish. It’s the management of a host of resources in a structured holistic manner that will lead to sustainable improvement,” he said.
“It’s the classical chicken or egg dilemma. Is it strong clubs first and then strong national team, or strong national team and then strong clubs? My opinion they have to develop in parallel.”