Local football leagues must resume as soon as possible if Malta wants to remain competitive in its upcoming World Cup Qualifiers, head coach Devis Mangia said.
Earlier this month, the Maltese government banned all organised sports in light of a surge of COVID-19 cases, putting an abrupt halt to the national team’s training schedule just weeks before its first 2022 World Cup Qualifying match.
While the national team was later given an exemption for the match, all organised sport continues to be prohibited until 11th April at the earliest.
“The situation needs to change. We cannot be the only country in Europe with this type of problem,” Mangia said last night following the team’s unfortunate 3-1 loss to Russia.
“How can I tell players to stay fit when they can’t train for three or four months? And then I have to tell them to play for World Cup Qualifiers in September. It’s not possible,” he said.
Malta’s national team played with a new-found energy and confidence last night, topped off by a beautiful second-half goal by Joseph Mbong, sparking nation-wide hopes about the future of football on the island, despite the overall end result.
However, the progress made thus far in the national team could be undone by the ongoing measures, which has put a grinding halt to all football leagues in Malta.
“We have to continue the league in Malta,” Mangia continued. “If we have to stop it is going to be impossible to play this type of football,” he said in reference to last night’s hard-fought match.
Other major football leagues across Europe have maintained their schedule of play, albeit under strict medical protocols, despite a rise in COVID-19 cases across the continent.
“If it can happen in other countries, it can also happen in Malta, with health being the priority. It’s the only country in Europe that has stopped the league, it is not normal in my opinion,” he said.
The Malta Football Association, along with a number of Premier League and Challenge League clubs, has appealed to health authorities to remove the legal notice banning organised sport before 11th April.
Other sporting associations and athletes have also made the same appeal, including the Malta Paralympic Committee.
The Malta national team will continue its 2020 World Cup qualifying matches abroad with games against Slovakia on the 27th and Croatia on the 30th.
The second round of competitions will commence this September with Malta facing the remaining opponents from Group H.
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