FIFA president Gianni Infantino was impressed by the development of football in Malta and opened the door for the MFA to host a FIFA youth competition in the future.
Infantino was in Malta for a one-day visit as part of the MFA’s 120th anniversary celebrations from its foundation.
During his stay on the islands, the Swiss had the opportunity to touch some important aspects of the game.
He started the day with a meeting with young players at the Salinos Ground in Valletta, met with Prime Minister Robert Abela and Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo, and he also visited the infrastructure projects being carried out by the Malta FA before ending his visit by inaugurating a football museum at the Millennium Stand in the National Stadium.
“I came here to Malta to see with my eyes and hear with my ears about the work being carried out by the Malta Football Association and I can say that my Bjorn Vassallo has what it takes to implement the strategy he has proposed,” Infantino said.
“It’s clear that in his strategy document, he did well to take some elements from his experience in working for FIFA and surely Malta can leave a very strong impact on the Maltese society.
“Everyone says that the pinnacle in world football is to win the World Cup but that is won by only one country.
“However, I believe that one can also win the World Cup by helping in the development of the Maltese boys and girls – not only on the pitch but also through the programme that the MFA is carrying out with the Ministry of Education and promoting the Beautiful Game both in Malta and Gozo as football brings value and respect in the society.”
The FIFA president said that during his meetings with Prime Minister Robert Abela and Clayton Bartolo, the Tourism Ministry, he emphasised the importance that the government continues to provide its support to the Malta Football Association.
“We had a very important meeting with the Prime Minister and I highlighted the importance of having a strong co-operation between the Malta government, the MFA and FIFA to continue to invest in the grassroots and promote football and Malta in the world.
“That will be attained by FIFA organising more activities.”
Asked whether he believed Malta has the infrastructure and facilities to host international FIFA tournaments, Infantino said: “We have discussed this today and my wish is to bring some international events here in Malta. The chances of having a tournament co-hosted by Malta with another country is real.
“There are talks ongoing at FIFA to organise youth competitions on a yearly basis rather than biennial and that would surely increase the possibility of having a tournament here.
“The intent is there and hopefully it will be done.”
Turning his sights on the international scene, the FIFA president said that he was shocked to see Christian Eriksen collapsing on the pitch during Denmark’s Euro 2020 opener against Finland and said that the incident reminded us of what was really important in life.
“As an Inter fan, Christian Eriksen is one of my idols and I was shocked to see him fall to the ground against Finland,” Infantino said.
“There were some anxious moments where I was fearing for his life but thanks to the incredible work of the doctors, he recovered enough to be taken to the hospital and I felt a great sense of relief.
“However, this episode has reminded us of what are the important things in life. Sometimes we delve too much in theoretical problems and we lose the real focus of life.”
Infantino said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable everyone in the world is and it’s important now that FIFA continues to help the associations in the world.
“FIFA was one of the few sporting organisations to provide financial assistance by creating a fund to support all its national bodies,” the FIFA chief said.
“I feel that we need to do more. We need to find ways to start bringing back spectators to the ground as without them football is not the same.”
On his part, Bjorn Vassallo, the MFA president, said: “During all the events we had today we had a better understanding on what the MFA should be working for.
“The strategy that we have put forward has set goals that are reachable if we remained humble and are supported by FIFA and UEFA.
“From what I saw today, I am encouraged about the future of football in Malta and we will continue to work hard to further improve our performances and hopefully attain better results both on and off the pitch.”