The Malta Independent 28 January 2023, Saturday
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Local football ought to become professional for it to advance

Saturday, 21 January 2023, 09:09 Last update: about 7 days ago

Carlos Gauci

Despite our recent on-and-off performances, the rhetoric is always how local football can take it to the next level, how we can be an underdog that barks. However, my take on this is quite frank; we need to become professional for local talent to prosper.

 

On how local football can improve

Seeking professional football should be the highest target that the MFA ought to seek. I know that this is no easy task, especially due to limited resources. Albeit I believe that if we do become professional, local football will considerably improve. This is so because professional footballers will be solely dedicated to football, and thus they will, for starters, better care for their physique. Local players do care for themselves physically, yet it is not enough for their form if footballers go to work every morning, train at night, go back home to eat and the rest of the “unprofessional” routine – they need to become professional to advance.

Apart from turning professional, local talent needs to reach international shores for it to improve, which in turn widens the Maltese portfolio of local talent. In addition, playing abroad can serve as a marketing tool to attract foreign players to come and play locally. Spectator attendance is also a big problem the local clubs have, yet I believe that by working on the aforementioned targets, attendance will significantly improve in the stands.

 

On Michele Marcolini

It is no secret that no one locally knew of Marcolini before he came to our shores. If one looks at his football history, he never completed more than one season with a club, having Chievo Verona as the most famous team that Marcolini was in charge of. The only honour our new head coach won was with Alessandria Calcio in the 2017-18 season, lifting the Serie C Coppa Italia. When you consider that the MFA had other alternatives apart from Marcolini, such as Delio Rossi and another Spanish coach, it clearly shows that the MFA went for the cheapest option.

When speaking of Marcolini you cannot forget the huge contribution that Devis Mangia gave to local football. Despite seeing performances improve under Mangia’s reign, other national football teams, on our level, made way further improvements. Moreover, if Malta made three steps forward in improving football, other teams on our level made 10 steps forward, thus we internationally stayed where we were. Even when one observes the rankings, we remained in the same whereabouts that we had before Mangia’s reign.

Regarding Marcolini, we have to wait and see, like all coaches and everything in life.

 

On the contribution of institutions and the Malta FA to local football

Despite knowing that the government is financing local teams to advance, we are still in the early stages of improvement. More campaigns and initiatives ought to be undertaken especially those tailored for young players and children entering the football world.

We also need assistance from respective institutions to switch the mentality concerning local sportspersons, being “sportspersons who have another job in the morning” to “sportspersons who are professional and dedicated to their sport”.

Ultimately, it’s up to the mentality and approach that management teams of local football endure, for local talent to flourish peacefully.

 

On what can we learn from international football

To further emphasise my point, we can, at most, learn best from international football on professionalism, on what it takes for a player to be deemed professional. You will not go to Germany and find Thomas Muller working as a secretary in the morning and training with Bayern Munich in the evening. Contrarily, he wakes up and sleeps thinking of Bayern, possibly even dreaming about Bayern. His professional demeanour is one of the pillars which made him (and others like him) the player that he is, which unfortunately is not the case locally.

Football set-ups have also improved during the years, yet we are still lacking behind compared with international football. Foreigners do come and praise our set-ups, yet in reality, one has to also consider the limited resources that we have.

Despite the prospects, I think that realistically, we cannot reach the international level. Even if one considers Iceland for instance, a country around our population, their players do play internationally. Despite also being limited in resources, Iceland dispersed their players in different countries, which contributed to their success in football.

Locally, we are inclined to stay in our comfort zone, which is a problem that one cannot easily shrug off. Further, we are so confined to our comfort zone that we are not ready to take the leap and play abroad; that’s why we have players who do go abroad and come back to our shores quickly afterwards.

Carlos Gauci is a sports enthusiast and opinionist

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