Gabriel Melillo set to join Spain’s CN Terrassa
Three young Maltese players will be leaving the islands in the coming days to pursue their career abroad as the Aquatic Sports Association of Malta continues to step up its drive to support the development of young talent on the islands.
Jake Bonavia and Lucas Falzon are heading to Montenegro as they are set to join VK Primorac Kotor while Gabriel Melillo will be flying to Spain to complete a move to CN Terrassa.
Bonavia and Falzon are the latest Maltese young players to be heading to Montenegro as late last year Jake Muscat and Sam Gialanze joined PVK Jadran.
Malta coach Karl Izzo told The Sunday Times of Malta that the first contacts for Bonavia and Falzon to head to Montenegro came about late last year.
“In November, I was contacted by the president of VK Primorac Kotor, Mladen Janovic, who is one of the best players in the Montenegrin history, and informed me that he was approached by a friend of Maltese football coach Oliver Spiteri who asked him if there was a possibility for Lucas Falzon to join their club for a training stint,” Izzo said.
“Janovic informed him that before taking a decision he would discuss the matter with me since I was his reference point in Malta.
“When Janovic spoke with me on the potential of Lucas, who I know very well given that he was part of the Malta U-17 selection that placed 12th at the European Championships in Georgia, I told him that he possessed great talent and that I always encourage our young players to go abroad, particularly to Montenegro as I know the great work that is done there.
“During the conversation I asked him if it was possible to send another talented young player in Jake Bonavia, who was another key player in our U-17 selection in Georgia and he accepted immediately.
“Surely, this will be a great opportunity for both Jake and Lucas who will not only train with top players on a professional basis but will also have the opportunity to play in the Montenegrin youth league so I’m sure they will come back as better players.”
Izzo said that following this initiative, the Primorac president had opened the possibility of setting up a collaboration agreement to have more young Maltese players training with the Montenegrin side.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to have such an agreement with a top Montenegrin side like Primorac and in the coming weeks, ASA president Joe Caruana Curran and I will sit down with the Montenegro club officials to make this happen as it will boost the game in Malta,” Izzo said.
Jake Bonavia said that he is delighted to be given this opportunity that will help him not only improve his talents but also mature as a player.
“This will be a very important experience for me as it will not only help me become a better player but also help me mature more. I hope that after this stint, I will manage to establish myself in the senior team at San Ġiljan,” Bonavia said.
“I’m really looking forward to it as I will be playing and training with some great players in Montenegro.”
On his part, Falzon said that this is a dream come true for him.
“This has always been my dream of leaving Malta and go to play with a foreign team,” Falzon, who is on the books of Sirens, said.
“To be given the opportunity to play with some top-quality players and coached by one of the best waterpolo players in Montenegro is crazy.
“I’m sure that this move will help me to improve from all aspects as with Primorac we will train three times everyday as opposed to the daily sessions here, so the intensity will be much higher and the quality will be better.
“It’s up to me now to do the best of this opportunity and hopefully I can come back and help both my club and push myself into the national team.”
On the other hand, the opportunity for Melillo, who is on the books of Sirens FC, to move to Spain, materialised after his club made contact with the St Paul’s Bay club former player Sergio Mora who is now coaching at Catalunya-based club CN Terrassa.
“I always had made it clear that my wish was to go and play abroad to further my career,” Mellilo said.
“Thanks to the contact of the Sirens vice-president with Mora he made this dream a reality and I am happy that I will spend the next five months with CN Terrassa in Spain before I will come back to play for Sirens in the Winter League.
“For sure this experience will be of great benefit for me as I will be fully concentrated on my waterpolo career where I will train twice a day with very high level players and coaches in top-class waterpolo.”
Melillo’s feat of realising his dream takes more significance when one considers that since a very young age he had to overcome a huge physical barrier.
Melillo has a hearing disability which he has managed not let it end his dream of playing waterpolo and went on to establish himself in the Malta U-17 team.
“To be honest, I never really think about it too much or let it go into my mind,” Melillo said.
“It’s always been a problem and I would have achieved nothing without the support and help of my club. But I always believed that if you put your mind into something you can achieve anything.
“Obviously, when I play I have to concentrate more during the game and need the help of my team-mates and pay attention to the referees more than any other players. But, I think I have more than enough learnt to deal with this matter and I’m very grateful to those who helped me overcome this matter.”
Asked to give a word of encouragement to young players in all sport who have similar problems, Mellilo said: “The important thing for them is how they look at the matter. Try and ignore what other people tell you what you can or what you cannot do.
“For me this was never a quick fix of the situation. It’s all the result of many years of hard training and determination. When I was young, nobody outside the club believed that I could make a career in waterpolo.
“Over the years I managed to overcome this as I was called to the U-17 national team.
“One thing which I’m certain is that if you put your mind into something and you don’t let other people determine what you can or cannot do I’m sure you can get to wherever you want. You just need to believe in yourself.”