Malta’s vice-captain Andre Schembri has announced he will retire from international football at the age of 32 so as to make way for new blood.
Schembri, who plies his trade with Cypriot side Apollon Limassol, confirmed on his Facebook page that he will retire following Malta’s next two home games against Kosovo and Faroe Islands in the UEFA Nations League.
“With over two decades spent within the national team ranks, I feel it is time to stand aside and let the younger players come through,” he said. “I feel very positive about the new faces being introduced, and it is only right they have the space to flourish.”
“At the age of 32, I also find myself a step closer towards the end of my career. Keeping up with the pace is not easy when playing abroad and I need to concentrate on being physically and mentally prepared for these challenges.”
“I regard it as a great honour and a privilege to have represented my country at every level from U14s upwards. I have always been very proud to wear Malta’s shirt. My sincere wishes go to Coach Ray Farrugia and all the players for a brighter future.”
“A big thank you to all my family, supporters, coaches, technical staff, players, the association and all club administrators that I have worked alongside. It was an incredible journey indeed.”
Schembri burst onto the scene in 2006, when his two goals helped Malta to victory against Hungary, but only scored once more for the national team since then. Last year, he became the first Maltese person to score in the UEFA Europa League but refused to celebrate his goal out of respect to assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
He has been vocal about the state of Maltese football, calling for a revamp of the Malta Football Association, warning that corruption has infiltrated all levels of the game, and urging young Maltese players to develop their skills overseas.
He has insisted that, with the right set-up, Malta has the potential to emulate the giant-killing successes of Iceland.