The Malta women’s national team will make a return to the European Championship qualifiers for the first time after five years when they take on group favourites France at the National Pool on Friday evening.
This is the first time that the Aquatic Sports Association will be hosting a women’s qualifying tournament which will also see the participation of Israel and Portugal.
Joe Caruana Curran, the ASA president, told a news conference that this tournament will represent an important step in the development of Maltese women waterpolo on the international scene. He said that it will provide Maltese players with the much-needed experience of facing stronger countries such as France and Israel.
“In women’s waterpolo, the ASA didn’t have many opportunities to organise international competitions in Malta so for us this tournament is quite historic,” Caruana Curran said.
“One of our main objectives this weekend is to give exposure to women’s waterpolo that has started quite late in Malta. However, it must be noted that participation in women’s waterpolo domestically has increased and for the first time we organised a women’s Winter League.
“In the men’s game we took giant strides forward over the past 12 years and now it’s the time for us to try and push forward the women’s sector. The success attained by the women’s U-17 in the European Championship last year has attracted more youngsters to the sport and we are committed to help the sport continue to flourish.
“This tournament will be a good opportunity to gauge our level. If you don’t play stronger countries you cannot see where our level is, and how much work needs to be done to move up a level.”
In preparation for this weekend’s championship, the women’s team attended a short training camp in Rome where they played a number of friendly matches against Italian top side CIS Roma.
Coach Anthony Farrugia, who was forced to isolate for a few days during the camp in Italy due to COVID-19, said that he was heartened by the dedication and improvement shown by his players in Italy.
“This is the second time that Malta is taking part in a European Championship qualifiers after an absence of five years, so to be honest it’s like starting from scratch,” Farrugia said.
“We know that we will be up against some tough opponents. France and Israel are two very strong sides who have experience in playing in continental finals while Portugal may not be highly-ranked in Europe but we still have to see their improvement in the game.
“We have a team blended with youth and experience. In fact, we have six players who were part of the U-17 national team and the others are veterans who were with us in our last qualifying experience.
“In Italy, the team showed a lot of progress as playing a quality side like CIS Roma helped the players to gain a lot of intensity in their game. I feel that we are ready for this tournament and the players are keen to make sure they can achieve the best possible in front of our fans.”
Also present for yesterday’s news conference was Karl Izzo, the Malta men’s national team coach, who said that it’s heartening to see an increase in the number of young female players and said that with the right investment the women’s game is capable of providing positive results in the next few years.
S. Desjardins (San Ġiljan), Nadia Azzopardi (San Ġiljan), Kaia Agius (Sirens), K. Navarro (Marsaskala), M. Perici Ferrante (Sirens), L. Cachia (Sliema), F. Paolella (Sliema), S. Camilleri (Neptunes), D. Micallef (Sirens), R. Caruana Dingli (San Ġiljan), Z. Bartolo (Sirens), A. Bonello (Exiles), A. Amato (Sirens), K. Camilleri (Sliema), E. Montfort (Sirens).
PLAYING ON FRIDAY
Portugal vs Israel 17.00
Malta vs France 18.30
PLAYING ON SATURDAY
Israel vs France 17.00
Malta vs Portugal 18.30
PLAYING ON SUNDAY
France vs Portugal 09.00
Malta vs Israel 10.30