Stephania Farrugia’s last-gasp equaliser for Malta against Bosnia-Herzegovina helped her side forge a new chapter in the history of the women’s national team.
The four-goal stalemate against 58th-ranked Bosnia earned the Malta women’s national team, ranked 93rd, its first ever point in the proper qualification round for a Women’s World Cup.
In addition, it was Malta’s first ever positive result against the same opponent since a 1-1 draw which dates back to 2006, when Dorianne Theuma put her name on the scoresheet for her country.
“My late goal for Malta against Bosnia-Herzegovina is by far one of the best moments for me wearing the national team shirt,” Farrugia told the Times of Malta.
“Besides scoring late, it helped us also score a point in such a difficult game which makes it even better.
These are stuff of dreams and to see the sheer delight on the faces of your team mates and supporters, it was a moment that I will cherish forever.”
In the build-up for this qualifier, Malta suffered a heavy blow when starting goalkeeper Janice Xuereb succumbed to an injury during training and was sidelined against Bosnia.
Goalkeeper Xuereb has been a constant presence not only for Malta, but also for Birkirkara where together with Farrugia – who also plays for Birkirkara – they have shared numerous domestic triumphs.
“It was a sentimental goal for me as I dedicated it to our goalkeeper Janice Xuereb, who unfortunately suffered an injury few days before the game and could not be with us on the field,” Farrugia explained.
The positive result against Bosnia is a sign that this national team, under the guidance of Mark Gatt, is still showing signs of improvements after the record-breaking qualifying campaign for the Women’s Euro 2022 finals when Malta placed fourth with 10 points.
“I believe that these results are reflecting the growth of our movement,” the Malta and Birkirkara defender pointed out.
“Without doubt, there will always be difficult games for us in which we will find it hard to register positive results but nonetheless, I believe that this draw will inject a huge moral boost in us ahead of the upcoming games.”
New season, same target
Meanwhile, the attention will now shift to the domestic league as seven teams will participate in the 2021/2022 MFA Women’s League that is set to start today and will run until April 27. All teams will face each other on three occasions for a total of 18 games for each participant club.
The games will be played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with the venues used for this league being the Centenary Stadium, Dingli Ground and Mġarr Ground.
Birkirkara, winners of four consecutive titles since the 2016/2017 edition, start as favourites to lift the title once again.
Their opponents in tonight’s opener will be San Ġwann, who are this year’s new participants in the women’s league.
San Ġwann launched their women’s football season as they made their debut in the U-20’s league, which commenced last Saturday.
“Every year, Birkirkara’s objective is to challenge and win the title,” Farrugia underlined.
“All teams can be competitive which makes every game difficult for us.
Teams like Swieqi United and Mġarr United promise to be two competitive teams and while it makes our league more exciting, it helps the women’s game to grow as well.”
Before last season was halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Stripes were in the driving seat for a fifth straight title as they are looking to win their 10th women’s league overall.
During the summer, Birkirkara represented Malta in the UEFA Women’s Champions League where they met Scotland champions Glasgow City and Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia.
After their opening defeat to the Scottish side, Melania Bajada’s side suffered a heart-breaking defeat to Slovan Bratislava as they lost 1-0 in extra-time after holding the Slovak champions to a goalless stalemate in regular time.
TUESDAY – 20.45
Birkirkara vs San Ġwann, Mġarr Ground
Mġarr United vs Kirkop United, Centenary Stadium
WEDNESDAY – 20.45
Mtarfa vs Raiders Lija, Centenary Stadium
MD1 bye: Swieqi United.
Photo: Joe Borg