The Malta Independent 5 December 2021, Sunday

50 Shades of Greats: ‘Believe and follow your dream’ - Michael Mifsud

Simon Farrugia Sunday, 13 June 2021, 11:00 Last update: about 7 months ago

Mifsud was born in Pieta on 17 April 1981. He is the son of Alfred and Stella and has an older brother, George. He is also the father of a nine-year-old child.

He experienced his childhood as part of the 80s generation. “It was a simple childhood. From a young age, you would always see me with a ball and playing football and that is how it remained over the years. At that time it was standard practice that nearly all Church communities had their own local football club and I was always a member in these clubs playing in their yard.”

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How were Michael’s formation years? “After kinder, I attended St Benild’s College, followed by senior school at Stella Maris College. So as one can imagine, I had a special affinity with the brothers. But I don’t regret it since at school they gave us the basics to become tomorrow’s men.”

How did it all start and what triggered his interest in football? “It was always football from day one. I remember at the age of seven I had an interview in a hotel in Qawra and when they asked me what I want to do when I grow up, my immediate reply was that I wanted to become a professional footballer playing in England.”

Michael made his debut with Sliema Wanderers during the season 1997/98. In his first season he made six appearances and scored once. His contribution helped the Blues finish third in the Premier League. “I started at the age of eight with the nursery. We used to compete in local and even foreign tournaments. That was the start of it all until I made my debut at the age of 16. But during the following season things looked brighter when in my first full season with the Wanderers I finished as the League’s top scorer.”

A few years later Michael started his journey abroad when he went to Germany to play with FC Kaiserlautern. ‘”It was no easy task to decide and go and join a top team in the Bundesliga. I had players like Klose, Basler, Djorkaeff and more. So to make it into the first team was really hard. But I always believed in my abilities and I played 21 games scoring two goals. But yes this was the stepping stone for more wonderful things to come. Obviously everything has its own difficulty but it is you that has to grind it out.”

The span between 2004 and 2009 can be considered as the golden years for Mifsud playing in Norway and England. “Norway was a wonderful experience. A beautiful country, an interesting league and above all I made a lot of friends. I had three fantastic seasons with Lillestrom and even played in the Europa League. I was also voted, at one stage, the best foreign player in the League. And in season 2006 I was the club’s top scorer where I scored 11 goals in 19 appearances.”

Mifsud was spotted by Micky Adams, Coventry City manager at that time who was scouting talent in Norway. It was 10 January 2007 when Michael signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with the Sky Blues. “I had a three-year spell with Coventry; full of wonderful moments. To play in the Championship at that level is everyone’s dream. With Coventry I played 86 matches scoring 16 goals.”

Life is a mixture of good and bad times. And Michael, like everyone else, had his fair share of both. He started recalling the positive moments. “One of the best moments is undoubtedly 26 September 2007 when I scored a brace at Old Trafford against Manchester United in the League Cup 3rd Round. The Red Devils were champions at the time. But there are also other positive experiences, namely starting at a young age with Sliema, scoring for them, national team appearances, playing in Germany, Norway and more.”

Bad moments are practically all related to injuries and operations. But there are also some dull moments when you lose your place and you have to fight back for it. And abroad is not like Malta. For every position you will find seven or eight players so you have to fight hard and believe in your capabilities.

And back in Malta Michael played with a number of clubs namely Valletta, Qormi, Sliema, Birkirkara, Sirens and eventually his present club, Mosta. Why did he wonder so much? “When I came back I played for two seasons with Valletta where my average goalscoring was a goal every two matches. I won a lot of trophies with the Citizens. But I am a dressing player and I love the atmosphere there so when it is time to move on I don’t hesitate.”

Mifsud was voted as the Maltese Sportsperson of the Year in 2001 and 2003. What does this mean for him? “I was very happy. Winning the Sportsman of the Year twice is a dream come true. That is the moment that you are being recognised as the best sportsman on the island. It’s not about football, it’s all about sport.”

Turning our attention to the national team Mifsud made his debut on 10 February 2000, against Albania at the National Stadium. At that time, under the stewardship of Josip Ilic. He found the net for the first time wearing the eight-pointed shirt against Iceland a year later. “To be honest I had forgotten about the episode, when this was and against whom. But I saw it once again and memories flashed back. It is always an honour for me to wear the national shirt. And to put oneself on the scorers’ list is an added bonus.”

Mifsud has got the records of most capped players with 143 matches and best all-time goal scorer finding the net for Malta on 42 occasions. He was also the captain of the national team for over 20 years. “I owe it to a lot of people. Players like Carmel Busuttil, Martin Gregory and others all made my work easier. To mention the players that were on my side in this journey is impossible. But yes I am proud to hold these records for my country.”

Another feat was when Michael scored five goals against Liechtenstein during a friendly match played in March 2008 with Malta emerging the winner by a 7-1 scoreline. “Yes these moments don’t happen every day. To score five goals for your country is very rare. Let alone being a small country like Malta. But I did it!”

Mifsud was coached by numerous coaches during his entire career. But is there anyone who left an impact on him or was considered as a cut above the rest? “This is a very difficult question to answer. I always tried to learn from every coach. To be honest every coach has his good and bad side. I tried to learn from the good and even the bad of everyone.”

What are his future plans, at least his immediate ones? “I’m going to stay for another season with Mosta. I will surely stay for another year. We have just gained a historic European qualification so for me this will be another feather in my cap playing once again in Europe. But I always cherish the present. Once the season is over I will decide accordingly.”

Turning onto more personal things, Michael rates meat as his favourite food. And what about his travelling preferences? “This is difficult to answer because I’m a person that loves to travel. I’ve been in all parts of the world but thinking about it my favourite spot is not so far away, Toscana.”

And what does family life mean to Michael. “It means a lot. I’m a family man. I like happiness above all.”

When Michael has some free time on his hands he goes diving. “It’s another world down there. I love to go diving. It’s the best to relax. Apart from that I love meeting friends. My character is a joyful one and having a drink with some friends and laughing the night out is enough for me.”

One final message for the young generation from Mifsud: “Always believe in yourself and follow your dream.”

 

Mifsud’s main records

·         He has a joint record of scoring five goals in an international match

·         Scorer of six goals in a league match

·         Most capped (143) and record goal scorer (42) for Malta

·         Scored after just seven seconds in a cup game

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