Veteran forward hopeful of being awarded passport to play for Malta
Mario Fontanella says that he is driven by his desire to show that he is still one of the best strikers in the Maltese Premier League after the Italian forward led Valletta FC to a stunning opening day victory over Malta champions Ħamrun Spartans on Friday.
After a disappointing 2020-21 campaign that has seen Fontanella dogged by injury problems and poor form, the Napoli-born forward was determined to make a real statement of his abilities and for him, there was no better platform then in a clash against the newly-crowned Malta champions Ħamrun Spartans.
And Fontanella surely didn’t let this opportunity slip through his grasp as the 32-year-old striker led the Citizens to an astonishing fightback as they managed to score twice in the space of five second-half minutes to come from behind and beat Ħamrun Spartans 2-1 at the National Stadium.
“Personally, I live for these matches,” Fontanella told the Times of Malta.
“When you play against the title favourites after five months of inactivity and where many people were doubting my qualities, it was straightforward for me to galvanise myself.
“Actually, this year at Valletta we are practically a new group of players who have a lot to prove after all the difficulties of last season and we wanted to show that we can be a forced to be reckoned with this season.
“No doubt, the win against Ħamrun Spartans was a huge shot in the arm but it’s still the opening day of the season and it’s important now that we keep working hard and continue to build on the good things we showed against Ħamrun.”
Fontanella admitted that the match against Ħamrun Spartans was decided by episodes.
“To be honest, the match could have easily gone differently. In the first half, there was little separating either side but after the break, Ħamrun started much better than us and had they taken the chances they created the match could have taken a different spin.
“But we kept fighting and then came those five minutes where we managed to score twice and from then on there was no way back for them.
“Still, Ħamrun have a very strong team and I expect them to recover quickly from this slip.”
Asked where he thinks Valletta FC could arrive this season, Fontanella refused to divulge his target but admitted that things look good.
“When you change ten to 11 players, things are different,” Fontanella said.
“We are a new group with many young players and a couple of experienced players. There is great enthusiasm in the squad and that is very important. We have a very good coach and all the players follow him a lot and he is our point of reference.
“I don’t want to say what is my target for this season but we are aiming high.”
In the last 12 months, Fontanella has been touted as one possible overseas players to be given a Maltese passport and represent our national team in international competitions.
So far, Fontanella’s application seems to have hit a snag as the Italian is still unsure when he will be awarded the passport that would make him eligible to form part of Devis Mangia’s national team.
With the World Cup qualifiers coming fast in the next fortnight, Fontanella is desperate for a positive solution that would enable him to join Mangia’s squad ahead the upcoming qualifiers which kick off with the September 1 qualifier against Cyprus at the National Stadium.
“I am still awaiting for development as I’m desperate to form part of the Malta national team,” Fontanella said.
“To be honest, I am waiting for developments and this week there had to be a meeting between the club and the association on my case.
“I know that Mangia wants me to be part of his squad and the MFA is also backing my application so I am hopeful that it will be resolved quickly.”