Right: Malta lost 3-1 to the Faroe Islands last month. Photo: Paul Zammit Cutajar/MFA
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat today urged Malta’s sports federations to start professionalising so as to be able to blood athletes capable of competing at the highest level.
“I don’t like losing and I get frustrated watching smaller countries than ours achieve much better results in international competitions,” Muscat said at a political activity. “How come some of our youths manage to rub shoulders with the best in Europe at a young age but then get lost along the way? The government plans to launch a national sports strategy to address these issues and we have already started discussions with sports federations and the Malta Olympic Committee in this regard.”
The Prime Minister said that such a strategy will be a two-way street, whereby the government will only pledge funds to sports federations which come up with clear targets on how they will use this money to raise the level of the game in Malta.
“The federations’ plans must not be limited to the popularisation of the sport but must also include targets on how funding will help them blood champions,” he said. “We have a strong economy and are ready to invest in sports and we are now telling sports federations to get their act together and come up with these strategies.”
Although Muscat didn’t refer to any sport in particular, his speech made particular sense in the context of how the national football team has fared so far in the UEFA Nations League. The competition was set up to allow international football teams to compete with teams at their level, but Malta has been badly exposed in its group – losing to Kosovo and the Faroe Islands and coming draw twice against Azerbaijan.
In contrast, Malta’s U-21 side has performed admirably in its Euro Championship qualification group, recently defeating Hungary and coming draw to Cyprus.