The Malta Independent 22 May 2019, Wednesday

Basketball – After Malta’s European Division C victory: Caroline Fenech describes big emotional moment in Luxembourg

Malta Independent Wednesday, 23 July 2008, 00:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

“It was a big emotional moment for all the team hearing the national anthem being played on foreign soil (in Luxembourg) after we won the final to win the European Championship Division C.”

These were the words expressed by Caroline Fenech in an interview with The Malta Independent after the team’s recent huge success. In the final they beat a strong Albania side 81-61 to lift the trophy for the first time ever. Their best result previously in the same competition was the bronze medal they had clinched in Andorra in 2004.

Caroline described that emotional moment as “something I will never forget in my life.” She added: “The feeling was fantastic. I had already experienced something similar when we had won the women’s Small Nations Games tournament in 2003, but that was here in Malta and that makes all the difference,” she said.

I could understand what she meant. I had also experienced the same feeling way back in 1987 in Monaco when Helen Asciak and Carol Curmi had won the first gold medal for Malta after winning the women’s doubles event at the second edition of the Games for European Small States. It was there that the Maltese anthem was played and the national flag raised on a sports podium.

Caroline said it was a deserved success for all the team as they simply confirmed their tremendous progress, thus laying a huge claim to be included in next year’s squad for the Small Nations Games tournament in Cyprus.

Fenech said: “We have continued with our progress since that famous 2003 win in Malta. From that team I, Doreen Micallef and Josephine Grima are the only survivors. But the MBA did well to look ahead those days and started building afresh. Now there are some of us who are playing abroad, especially Josephine Grima, Antoinette Borg, Christine Grima, apart from having Rebecca Thoresen playing in Germany and Loretta Ellul, who is playing in the US. We also have every opportunity to go and train with our coach Prof. Santino Coppa in Italy, whenever we feel like it.”

Asked what has really changed to make this squad the reality it is today, Caroline quickly responded that the girls now have a winning mentality. “Gone are the days when we used to go on court just to limit the damage. Scoring 20 points would have been a success. Now it has changed completely and we look forward to beating any opponent which we face in our category,” she said.

And she added: “It is definitely a new era. The average age of the team is 23 years and that is in itself a healthy sign. That is the future of this side. It certainly looks good and it should be confirmed in next year’s Small Nations Games if we are selected to take part.”

Caroline is sure the MBA, together with the two coaches, Prof Santino Coppa and Sandro Farrugia, the team is moving on the right track. However, she feels that local teams have one big obstacle to surmount if there is to be a total improvement. “They all lack the necessary finances. It is evident that foreigners are needed to motivate the locals into making more effort (and sacrifices) to reach higher levels. But the lack of funds is hampering every club. It is also a pity that we do not have good support, except for the finals. In this regard the nursery children are conspicuous by their absence. Parents should feel obliged to take their children to Ta’ Qali to watch games so that the youngsters will become more accustomed to the sport,” she said.

She went on to shower praise on coaches Prof Coppa and Sandro Micallef. She said: “Santino began in 2002. He is a true professional while on court. He can even ‘bark’ at anyone during training, but as soon as the session ends, everything is quickly back to normal. That is only because he always wants to get the best of every player under his care.”

She referred to Sandro Micallef as a second father. “He takes care of our training sessions when Santino is not here. He works with us throughout the season and sees to our needs. He always produces a positive word for us and that gives us more encouragement,” she said.

Asked to describe the tournament in Luxembourg, Caroline said it was a deserved victory for the Maltese girls. “With Rebecca, Josephine and Loretta, we made a big jump in quality. Though the level was very high, we overcame all obstacles to coast home to some comfortable victories. The match against Albania was the toughest of them all, even if we finished with a 20-point advantage. But the most difficult opponents were, perhaps, Andorra, who have also made gigantic steps forward. All in all it was a very encouraging experience for all of us and we all hope to maintain this trend in future,” she said.

She thanked the MBA, the clubs, coaches and all the other players in the selection. “Together with the sponsors, we all make big sacrifices to produce our best on such occasions,” she concluded.

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