The Malta Independent 21 October 2019, Monday

"It’s like I’ve seen my mother once again" – Ray Farrugia on his appointment as national coach

Henry Brincat Thursday, 3 May 2018, 19:18 Last update: about 2 years ago
Photo: Joe Borg/MFA
Photo: Joe Borg/MFA

“First and foremost, we all must change our attitude. We have to work hard and in a most serious manner. Our mentality also has to change.”

New national football coach Ray “Zazu” Farrugia was over the moon on Wednesday when he became aware of his appointment by the MFA as the national team coach.

For the former Floriana and Malta striker, it was “a dream come true. It’s like I’ve seen my mother once again,” he said.

The new coach said he was very emotional when he was told about his appointment as this was something any coach would like to achieve. “It is a big honour for me and it is with great pride that I have accepted the job which was offered to me. It will not be easy, but I will be doing my best to see Maltese football at national team level improving,” he told me.

He went on to thank the MFA. "I'd like to thank the Malta FA for the faith they have shown in me.

"I will be giving my all to repay this trust and take our national team forward.”

Farrugia, who has been assistant coach to former coaches Josif Ilic, Pietro Ghedin and Tom Saintfiet, also had a stint as national Under 21 team coach earlier in his career – between 1998 and 2002.

He said: “Those were somewhat glorious years. It was the first team that, at that level, obtained five points in a qualifying group. I still remember vividly and with pride that 5-1 win against Macedonia. That was one of my best ever moments in my footballing career.”

I asked him whether he would like to see more moments like those at this new higher level. He said: “Yes, of course, but there must be some changes from us all. First and foremost, we all must change our attitude. We have to work hard and in a most serious manner. Our mentality also has to change. And we also have to go through a number of sacrifices if we are to succeed in our aims.”

When told that his predecessors always complained about the lack of quality players because there is not much to choose from on these islands, Farrugia said: “Yes, that is a problem which we have to face and tackle. The number of foreigners per team certainly curtails the number of locals who can obtain Premier League experience and therefore selection in the national squad. But so long as the foreigners are of a better standard than that of the locals, then I have no objection, even if their presence here makes less space for the locals. The doors will remain open for everyone who really wants to play for the national team. Obviously, I would like to have a bigger pool from which to choose my squad.”

Farrugia is already looking forward to start his work in earnest in preparation for the forthcoming friendlies near the end of this month and early June.

In fact, the national team squad will be undergoing a training camp in Austria where they will be playing three friendly matches against Armenia, Georgia and Moldova between 29 May and 4 June.

He said these matches should serve in good stead in preparation for the inaugural UEFA Nations League which starts in September.

I also asked Farrugia whether he had felt the same emotions in the 1970s when he was selected to play for the Malta national team, sometimes also having to come all the way from Australia to be included in the squad. He said: “Those were also moments of pride and honour for me. Every player’s wish is that of wearing the national team jersey. And with me it was no exception. In those days, we did not have much opportunities to play for the national team. So, I used to look forward to play for Malta, even if my career as a national team player was rather short.”

At the end, Farrugia reiterated that he was well aware of the difficult task ahead of him. “But I am convinced that I can do something to see the desired improvement in the standards of Maltese football.”

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