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MFA and Futsal Association sign MOU with plans for development

MFA vice-president Dr Matthew Paris (left) and FMA head Mark Marlow. Photo: Jonathan Borg

The Malta Football Association (MFA) and the Futsal Malta Association (FMA) have signed a memorandum of understanding with plans for a strategic plan for development of the indoor sport as part of the 2027 strategy of the local governing body of football.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, MFA vice- president Dr Matthew Paris said that while the association will be financing the sport, the FMA has been handed rights for the running of the league and knock-out competition in order to give them the freedom to develop the sport further.

“Futsal is a pillar in which the MFA will continue to invest,” Dr Paris said, “to do this, we’ve looked at a number of things one of which is the local league. There is no doubt that this is the greatest platform to assure that the game of futsal will continue to grow.

“The local league is very interesting and is producing exciting games. From the league, we can take the best domestic elements so that we can take part in international competition. So, our ambition for this season is to take part in the qualifying round (2024 World Cup) in April.”

The Malta futsal National team is set to play against Norway, Denmark and Cyprus in Group B of the World Cup qualifiers after draws took place yesterday afternoon.

Paris said this recent investment in futsal and its national team has been the biggest so far, as the MFA has brought in 10 technical staff members including coach Zelkjo Anicic who has guided Malta to its first international point back in January in a 1-1 draw against Greece.

While doing well in this round of qualifiers in 2022 will be a priority, the focus of both parties revolves around development at grassroots level.

Head of the FMA Mark Marlow lamented the fact that because there were no development strategies in place, the national team now has to make use of older players, seven of whom are at least 35 years old. With no structure for new players in place, this may, in turn, create a problem for selection.

However, Marlow told the press conference that the FMA is set to improve upon its Under-16 league and will continue giving an incentive to teams who play Under-23 players by permitting an additional foreigner on the court.

In addition to this, Marlow said there are plans for an Under-23 development squad, chosen from across the Maltese league, which is aimed at creating the future national team.

While the squad is set to be announced, this is the association’s plan to counter the lack of players to form the country’s national team.

Under-19 team

Another focus will be on the Under-17s as the association is looking to groom players to form Malta’s first Under-19 squad ahead of competition in 2023.

“We have started a project where until 2022, we will have held six training camps of three days each,” Marlow said.

“These are children who not only play futsal but also football. We are developing them to create an Under-19 National squad. We are working with them on technical and tactical aspects to help the players adapt to the game of futsal – there are certain elements that make the game of futsal different than football.

“In November, we’ve also observed other countries’ level at Under-19 during qualifiers and I believe that if we can continue to develop these players, we can compete at this level.”

Asked about the integration of these players into the Maltese leagues, Dr Paris told the Times of Malta that while there are no plans in place as yet to creative incentives for including such players in senior squads, the MFA will be looking at creating an Under-19 league of its own.

“At the moment, we have a league which is completely organised by the FMA for senior teams and another for the Under-16. We are looking at starting one for the Under-19s which will give the opportunity to the young players to play ahead of joining their senior squads and eventually the National Team,” Paris said.

In addition to this, Marlow explained that the women’s game is also in the Futsal association’s plans, with a festival for Under-13 girls scheduled to happen on December 27.

This is set to be the start for discussions between the association and the Maltese football’s women’s department in terms of development and eventually a national team as well.

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