After an unexpected wait of eight months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BOV Women’s League is set to return with the opening day programme scheduled between Tuesday and Wednesday.
Champions Birkirkara will start as favourites to retain the title as they commence their quest for a fifth straight championship.
Led by Melania Bajada, the Stripes will take on one of their league challengers in Swieqi United in the highlight match of the week, on Wednesday at the Centenary Stadium (kick-off: 20.30).
Swieqi, on their part, finished third in their best-ever season in the top-flight during the 2019-20 campaign. The Oranges will be looking to improve on last year’s progress and will aim to step up their title challenge and put Birkirkara’s dominance under threat.
Keith Gouder’s team boasts a mix of youth and experienced players which will help Swieqi deal with this season’s challenges.
Malta skipper Dorianne Theuma is one of their main stalwarts alongside fellow national team members Charlene Zammit, Jade Flask and newcomers Jodie Attard and Shona Zammit.
Theuma, who became the first player to reach 100 caps with the Malta women’s national team in March, is relishing the opportunity to return in action at club level after a long wait.
“We are looking forward to re-start our league commitments,” Theuma told the Times of Malta. “Obviously, it was not easy period for us, but we are motivated more than ever to prove our worth and again, have a positive season.”
Theuma feels that last season may have been a bit disappointing for Swieqi, as they did not really put Birkirkara’s throne under threat despite having a solid squad.
“I think that this team has a lot of potential and can go all the way in the title race,” Theuma explained.
“Unfortunately for us, it was not the case last year but with the newcomers coming in and an extra year of experience in this team, we have to challenge Birkirkara and Mġarr for the championship.”
Meanwhile, Theuma hopes that the continuous interest in the local movement boosts women’s football in Malta as she hopes in future improvements.
“Unfortunately, the league’s format does not really help in attracting general public at our grounds,” Theuma pointed out.
“In addition, it does not even help us players prepare at our best for the league matches week in, week out.
“I hope that in the near future, a better plan for our domestic competitions will be devised because although there are lot of committed people in the women’s game, it is still finding a lot of hurdles to overcome.”
Birkirkara, on their part, did not open their new campaign with the traditional UEFA Women’s Champions League mini-group qualifiers due the coronavirus.
In fact, their European appearance has been rescheduled as the Stripes will be in action on November 3 or 4 in a single-leg first qualifying round tie against the opponent they will draw on October 22.
The Stripes were one of the least active teams on the market as they kept faith with practically most of last year’s squad which includes Malta national team block in goalkeeper Janice Xuereb, defenders Stephania Farrugia, Ann-Marie Said, Alishia Sultana and versatile player Gabriella Zahra who can play in both defensive and midfield department and young midfielder Veronique Mifsud, who is also captain of the U-19 team.
Upfront, they replaced Ethiopia forward Loza Abera with Canada international Christabel Oduro.
Mġarr United, will open their new season with a tie against Mosta at the Centenary Stadium, on Tuesday (kick-off: 20.30).
Spearheaded by the 26 goals of Haley Bugeja, the Greens managed to finish second in the 2019-20 campaign and this season they will be looking to prove their worth once again.
Bugeja may have left to seek pastures new at Sassuolo but coach Patrick Curmi still has a solid squad to rely on including captain Brenda Borg and returning players Emma Zammit, Yolande Attard and Francesca Chircop.
Last season, Mosta chalked up only eight points from 14 matches and heading into the campaign, Ray Sant’s team will be eyeing improvement.
The Blues have brought in goalkeeper Maria Xuereb and Kylie Pantalleresco, both with spells at Mosta in the past.
Elsewhere, Kirkop United will take on the new entry for the 2020-21 season, Mtarfa at the Mġarr Ground, on Tuesday (kick-off: 20.30).
Coached by former Birkirkara and Hibernians coach Shawn Meilak, Mtarfa will be making their first appearance in the top-flight after featuring in the U-15’s and U-19’s leagues. During the transfer window, they have assembled a squad with a number of youth and experienced players.
Kirkop, on their side, will be under the guidance of coach Jochen Lenders, who in the past two seasons served as assistant coach to Kenneth Constantino, now the technical director of the women’s club.
The Reds have been the most active team in the market after Mtarfa, having signed nine players in Rodianne Zerafa, Hermoine Micallef, Sarah Urpani, Thea Difesa, Samantha Zarb, Rossella D’Antuono, Nicole Zammit, Rosalie Borg and Brooke Zarb.
PLAYING ON TUESDAY
Centenary Stadium: 8.30pm Mġarr United vs Mosta.
Mġarr Ground: 8.30pm Kirkop United vs Mtarfa.
Centenary Stadium: 8.30pm Birkirkara vs Swieqi United.