Every time a major sports competition gets underway, many begin to ask whether one will ever see the Maltese flag being raised on the winner’s podium.
With Bermuda and San Marino winning Olympic medals at the 2020 Olympic Games, such a question has indisputably once again been asked by many.
Over the past years, various athletes have had the honour of representing their home nation, both in individual sport events as well as team events. Some have also obtained highly respectable results, often qualifying to advanced stages of a tournament.
Malta has two major obstacles that hinder efforts or plans to advance in sport; funding opportunities and a limitation of facilities due to Malta’s geographical size.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of athletes are not professional full-time athletes and must thus try and juggle a dual-career.
While there are schemes which a promising athlete can apply for to be in a position to focus more on training and compete in sports events, this is only applicable to a handful of athletes, leaving the rest relying on the support and understanding of their employers, family, or school.
At the same time, the majority of clubs rely solely on their volunteers who dedicate their free time in order to run the club.
Running a club brings with it huge overhead expenses, for which clubs turn to sponsorships and any financial assistance that the government or other entities provide them with to cover same. Unfortunately, many times the money that a club obtains is barely sufficient to keep the club afloat, let alone plan and invest for its future development.
Thus, clubs are left with no further option but to focus on achieving its short-term objectives and leaving its long term objectives gathering dust on the shelf.
There are various sport arenas dotted around the Maltese islands, however only a handful of such facilities cater for multi-sports.
Owing to Malta’s size limitation, one must think more on the lines of having state of the art sporting venues that can cater for multidisciplinary sports rather than catering for single sports.
The recent legislation allowing clubs to commercialise their sports facilities provides clubs the opportunity to generate crucial funds that can be reinvested back into the club and their athletes.
If we want to see Maltese athletes or teams become a winner at a major sports event, then we must work collectively and unified with the common goal of seeking further sporting success.
Our athletes need to be supported in every possible way, whether it’s from their parents/guardians and school at a young age, their employer during adulthood or even their own family and friends to give a further moral boost.
Athletes need to be given every opportunity to advance in their respective careers, given the necessary funding and support to compete at sporting competitions as well have at their disposal state of the art sporting venues to practice their favourite sports.
Athletes should also have at their disposal opportunities to further excel their sporting career abroad whereby they will surely gain an invaluable experience.
Incentives could also be offered to those athletes that win a medal in a major sports competition to act as a further motive for athletes to give their utmost.
An athlete’s success is not based solely on his talent but it is also thanks to the dedicated support that they receive from their backroom team which includes their coaches, doctors and advisors as well as the volunteers that help run the club that they form part of.
Such staff are either paid a minimal amount for their time and expenses or, as is the case in the vast majority of cases in Malta, do it for free as part of their love for the sport.
To attract such individuals, the government should continue exploring schemes whereby such individuals can receive financial incentives for their time rendered (such as tax refunds), especially those assisting elite athletes or elite sports.
Clubs could also be offered financial assistance in order to continue attracting volunteers to help run the club and its premises.
Malta has a great passion for sports.
Recent results obtained by our athletes and teams have been encouraging.
With the right mentality, support, dedicated resources and having an entire nation behind our athletes, Malta can continue pushing to have its flag raised onto the podium during a major sports competition.
With the upcoming 2023 Games of the Small States of Europe being hosted in Malta, now is the perfect opportunity to work tirelessly and deliver everything necessary so that Team Malta can make a serious challenge for the winners podium.
United as a nation, Malta can continue making further waves in sports!