Malta national team captain Andrei Agius announced on Monday that he is set to call time on his international career after almost 16 years.
The Hibernians centre-back, who has been part of the senior Malta side since 2006, said that after time to consider his decision, he feels that it is time for him to step down from his role as Malta international.
“This past year and a half have been particular for me,” Agius said,
“I have accepted the transition because as players, our career demands that we take on different roles throughout the years. When you are young, you are usually enthusiastic and carefree with the only thing on your mind is improving yourself.
“When I became an established player, I had to shoulder responsibility especially when I was the captain of the national team. This past year and a half, I was asked to be a leader, transmitting certain values and helping the vision of the MFA to push the national team further forward. I believe I did so, but I don’t feel I fit the conditions to continue this adventure.
“I am very happy with my achievements. To be honest, when I put on the Malta shirt for the first time, I never imagined that I would go on to do what I’ve done because I know how challenging the competition was between very good players when I joined,” Agius explained.
“Just like I’ve seen other players such as Johnny Buttigieg and Silvio Vella, who motivated me, I try to reach their level but with my own version of it – I hope that what I’ve done throughout these past 16 years, inspires the younger generations who aspire to take football seriously and I hope it helps them find a stimulant to move forward.”
Agius, who made his debut under former coach Dusan Fitzel, showed his appreciation towards the Malta Football Association (MFA) and his coaches whom he said shaped his career and gave him responsibility.
“I managed to score many goals and the fact that they (coaches) gave me the responsibility, both in terms of captaincy but also as set-piece taker was all the more special. I have always been the type of person who performs better when given more responsibility,” Agius said.
Asked about the next steps, MFA president Bjorn Vassallo explained that in the same way the association is working with former Malta forward Michael Mifsud, it will also take on the approach of bridging the gap between Agius being a Malta player and him becoming part of the technical centre.
While Agius believes that it is up to the association to call upon him, he will be taking it step by step, starting off with an agreement with Hibs to take on a coaching role at grassroots level, after his playing career ends after next season.
“The agreement with my club is to extend my contract until next year but after that, I will definitely stop playing football,” Agius explained.
“I’m still in a moment of transition and I have much to learn. But I’m an ambitious person and I always start from somewhere with the idea of where I want to be.”
The sixth-most capped Malta player, with 102 matches under his belt, will make his curtain call against Azerbaijan as Malta faces the side in the next international window.
Malta will also meet Kuwait – the first opponent outside of the UEFA confederation since the the early 2000s – and Latvia in a tournament of friendlies before the UEFA Nations League preparations in June and September.