The Malta Independent 9 December 2018, Sunday

Waterpolo: Malta all set for double Belarus meeting

Domenic Aquilina Monday, 18 December 2017, 10:30 Last update: about 13 months ago

Maltese waterpolo and sports lovers will be looking forward to Malta’s forthcoming double meeting with Belarus next year. 

The national team was drawn to face Belarus in the forthcoming play-off qualification phase for the 33rd LEN European Waterpolo Championships to be held in Barcelona between 14 and 28 July 2018.

Malta were drawn to play “away” in the first leg on 24 February and host their opponents in the return leg, which could be very much decisive, on 3 March.

ADVERTISEMENT

Qualification is clearly not an easy task but definitely within reach, according to Malta national head coach Karl Izzo.

“Our main objective is that of qualifying for the final Seniors European Water Polo Championships for the second time running. We want to demonstrate that our first qualification was clearly not a ‘flash in the pan’. We want to show that we have a serious competitive team.  It will not be easy as we will be up against a very young, competitive, strong Belarus side, a team who competes in the Russian national waterpolo league.

But Izzo is convince that with the quality of the current crop of players, and the optimal preparations scheduled ahead, Malta will be giving it a good shot to qualify again for the final championships as happened two years ago.

“Ahead of our meeting with the Belarusians, we will be taking part in the Euro Cup in Split. Then we have a thorough training camp in Montenegro where we will play against Montenegro League champions Jadran Herceg Novi.

From there we head straight for the big game against Belarus.  So we have 12 days of intensive preparations together.  This way we should be at our possible strength for this match.”

The waterpolo mentor said he is very satisfied with his squad.  "I will have all my players with me during this time.  As you know there are quite a good number of players playing abroad – notably Stevie Camilleri playing with AS Roma Nuoto, Ben Plumpton with Circolo Nautico Posillipo in Naples, Andreas Galea with Serbia’s Dunav, Jeremy Abela in Spain and others – all playing in top leagues in Europe at the moment.”

“They will be back with the squad for the Belarus game.  These will join our top locals, making my squad a complete one. I am also scouting for the upcoming breed of players who could also make part of the squad in the near future.  This way I feel that waterpolo and the Malta national team has a very bright future ahead.”

Izzo said waterpolo gained popularity in Malta during these last five years. He believes this is due to the fact that Malta has competed and achieved positive results.

“Qualifying for the first ever LEN European Championships two years ago was the ultimate a sports association can dream of.  We managed to reach this target and we are very proud of our achievement.  Here I would like to thank the ASA and in particular President Joe Caruana Curran for their constant support.”

Izzo said he was pleased Malta will be playing the first leg away.   “This is what I wanted.  We know that the conditions will not be favourable to us, like an indoor pool, support and other factors.  Convinced that with the right mental frame of mind, good preparation, tactically and physically we can reach our main objective”

“I am optimistic about getting the results we need against Belarus.  With the preparations we have ahead of us and with the quality of my squad, I am convinced that we can achieve yet again for the second time running a qualification for Malta at the highest level of sports competitions.”

In his playing days, Karl Izzo played for Sliema and San Giljan.

“After that I started off my waterpolo coaching career.  My first eight years were much of a studying programme under various coaches.  After that I coached Sirens and then San Giljan from where four years ago, I moved on the post, which I still occupy today.

Izzo has just returned from Ostia in Italy where he attended a course under the guidance of Italy’s national coach Alessandro Campagna.  “Training methods, game tactics and strategy change continuously and this way I feel I keep up with the modern game,” he said.

“I then pass on my knowledge to the upcoming youngsters who want to make the grade in the game and also to the coaches, who we know are very much a minority here in Malta.  This is the way to push Maltese waterpolo ahead.”

Izzo is pleased that more players are getting experience in foreign leagues. “I have always insisted that if we want to see our game improve, our players have got to taste the game away from our shores.”

“Our local league is very restrictive.  The number of Maltese players getting experiencein other countries has risen to about 13 at the moment (both juniors and seniors).  The good thing is that these players do not come back when they taste the game abroad.  They stillcome back to play in Malta, but then return abroad. That is all to our credit.  Requests for players keep coming, so I do my best with my contacts to get this going. It is not easy for a number of reasons but I am always here to help and assist with the best possible solution.”

“I gauge my players regularly, visiting them regularly even at their clubs abroad. This is the way forward to keep on improving our game and achieve objectives and results.”

  • don't miss