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Watch: COVID-19 vaccination not obligatory for players, says Malta FA president

The Malta Football Association’s National Leagues are set to resume on Monday with a double-header from the Premier League after local football was put back by two weeks due to a sudden spike in the COVID-19 cases in Malta.

After the Malta FA Executive Board discussed the Public Health Authorities’ measures that will come to effect as from Monday, changes to the Return To Play protocol were approved ahead of the resumption of the local competitions.

Video: Jonathan Borg

“With the resumption of the local competitions set for next Monday, the Malta FA Executive Board held an important meeting on Wednesday where we decided to abide with the Public Health Authorities measures and the SportMalta protocol,” Vassallo told the Times of Malta.

With regards to the participation of players and technical staff, the criteria to access stadia will not be changed.

A full vaccination programme is required otherwise they have to provide a negative test from a PCR test 48 hours prior to matchday or a Rapid Antigen Test produced 24 hours before the game, with the latter’s possibility set to be introduced as of next Monday.

These flexible norms are also applied at international level where UEFA and FIFA have not imposed any rules that oblige players to be vaccinated in order to participate in their competitions.

“There is flexibility also at UEFA and FIFA level, and therefore the Malta FA has not implemented any policy which indicates that national team players have to be vaccinated in order to represent our nation,” Vassallo said.

“We already have a number of non-vaccinated players, in particular from the women’s football sector, that are still part of their respective category team.”

This timely declaration comes also in the light of Kyrian Nwoko’s criticism at the national team’s selectors on his social media profiles.

Nwoko, who was recently on the books of Irish club St Patrick’s Athletics, accused the national team selectors over the ‘unfair’ treatment he suffered due to his stance of not taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

The former Valletta striker related what he went through and said that he was excluded from national team selection because of his refusal of taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

Nwoko’s comments relate to the events of last May when the national team players were asked to take the Johnson and Johnson vaccine ahead of their departure for a training camp in Austria.

He accused the Malta FA of organising a PR stunt on the day the players received a vaccine with the presence of Health Minister Chris Fearne and top officials from the MFA and the government present.

In the build-up to that training camp, Malta coach Devis Mangia had made it clear that he was not ready to select Nwoko in his squad for the training camp due to his refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

He said that he didn’t want to put any of the members of the national team and staff in any kind of risk and also said that players who represented the country were in his eyes role models who should set the right example.

“I will not go into detail with regarding Kyrian Nwoko’s comments, as this situation happened many months ago and the pandemic scenario is a very fluid one,” president Vassallo explained.

“To put Nwoko’s words into context, during that period the national team had to travel and given the hurdles we were facing over travelling from one country to another, we were advised to take the vaccine because this would solve a lot of issues at that time.

“In addition, the travelling contingent is usually made up of a large number of people and the medical advice from our doctors was that ideally everyone would be jabbed.”

Vassallo added that since then, there were unvaccinated players representing the national teams at international level and that technical basis is the only criteria used by the coaches during his players’ selection.

Meanwhile, for media and spectators’ access will only be possible with a valid COVID-19  vaccination certificate.

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