If you thought sports in Malta can be taken seriously, you are wrong. Malta remains the only country in Europe that has a blanket ban on organised sport as a restrictive measure against the coronavirus pandemic.
The government’s decision to extend the ban on organised sports until 26th April has struck a chord in the sporting community, with many athletes and sporting organisations venting their frustrations online at the fact that they have been stripped of their duty to train and compete.
“Once more we had the chance to start giving sport some kind of acknowledgment and importance, but yet again the message came across that sport in our island is just a recreational thing,” said national football team captain, Andrei Agius.
“We are throwing away one year of hard work, not only for the athletes themselves that practice this sport but also for all the other people that on a day to day basis try to keep the football industry going on,” he said.
The Malta Football Association has stressed on multiple occasions that the BOV Premier League must continue if Malta wants to remain competitive in international competitions. However, it seems like the league will be terminated.
Moreover, the Premier League and Challenge League alone have 700 full-time contracts with a turnover of €8 million.
“We are ages back and now that we finally set the ball rolling we have to stop again instead of understanding the positive momentum and give elite sports the right importance because without constant hard work and sacrifices it will be very difficult to obtain some kind of results,” Agius ended.
The frustration hasn’t only been felt in the football community, but across all sporting fields, including swimming and water polo.
“Athletes in Malta take sports seriously. We sacrifice countless things to achieve our goals, we promote the importance of both physical and mental health to the public. Sport is education, sports is a lifestyle, sports is a career and sports should be a priority!” said Malta national water polo player Dino Zammit.
Multiple sporting associations including the MBA, ASA and MFA appealed to health authorities to allow the gradual return of organised sports next week, but to no avail.
For athletes, this sends a clear message that their profession cannot be taken seriously.
“This is a clear scenario of exactly why sports can never be a career,” said national swimmer Amy Micallef. “Unfortunately we try to paint the picture of it actually being possible but it’s quite obviously not,” she said.
The return of organised sports is expected to be 26th April. While sympathising with athletes, Parliamentary Secretary for Sports Clifton Grima encouraged everyone to work together to build a strong foundation for the future.
“It is now important to understand the current situation and decide on the way forward,” he said.
“It is clear that at this time more than ever that together we must build a strong foundation that will bear fruit in the future.”
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