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Watch: ‘Malta can play a key role in European sphere’ says European Athletics chief

European Athletics president Dobromir Karamarinov (left) with Andy Grech, the Athletics Malta president. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Team Malta to compete at Championship for Small States of Europe at Marsa on Saturday

Athletics Malta are set for a prestigious appointment on Saturday afternoon when it will host the European Championship for Small States at the Matthew Micallef St John athletics track in Marsa.

On Saturday, Malta will be up against 16 other countries, namely Gibraltar, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, North Macedonia, San Marino and Vatican City, in what is considered one of the major track and field competitions to be organised in Malta with around 350 athletes taking part.

Video: Jonathan Borg

A special guest for this year’s CSSE in Malta is European Athletics president Dobromir Karamarinov who highlighted the importance of these Games for the governing body.

“The European Championship for Small States is a very good project that was initiated here in Malta in 2016,” Karamarinov told the Times of Malta.

“For athletes who are coming from small countries these Games provide a great opportunity to compete at a high-level competition.

“Not many of these athletes get the opportunity to compete in European and world championships but the CSSE provides them with a chance to show their talent and maybe even win a medal.

“For an athlete that is of great motivation to continue practising our sport and I believe that these Games are fundamental so we can continue to develop athletics in Europe.

“Therefore, that is why it is so important for European Athletics to continue to give its support to this competition.”

The European Athletics president said that the CSSE represented a very important competition and hinted that there could be plans in the future to use these Games as a qualifying process for athletes to compete in the major continental finals.

“Our goal as European Athletics is to have more athletes competing at European and world level,” he said.

“Obviously, it’s a step-by-step process but one way of doing this is to include the Championship for Small States as part of the qualification process for the European Championships.

“It’s an idea that I like a lot and no doubt we will put this matter up for discussion for the future as it would help to raise the level of this competition.”

Karamarinov said that European Athletics has several projects that are entailed to help small countries like Malta to further strengthen their structure.

“We have many development projects and programmes aimed towards technical officials, coaches and we have also set up task forces to help member federations,” he said.

“It is our obligation to develop our sport in all countries. There are member federations where athletics is among the top three most popular sport in their country but there are others where track and field events do not even rank among the top 10.

“Our aim is to make our member federations stronger and stronger as in that way we would further strengthen European Athletics itself.”

Karamarinov said that COVID-19 turned out to be a huge challenge for European Athletics.

“The last two years have been very challenging for us due to COVID-19,” the European Athletics president said.

“Unfortunately, in 2020 we had to cancel all our events, but we are happy that in 2021 we managed to fulfil our calendar and for this year we have another packed schedule coming up.

“I feel that we have managed to go through the pandemic very well as now European Athletics has more commercial partners and we are able to increase our financial support towards our member federations.

“Now we have a new challenge in the form of this war in Ukraine. We were forced to sanction Russian and Belarus athletes, but I believe that we need to show all our support toward Ukrainian athletes.

“In fact, as European Athletics we have decided to invest a lot of money on Ukrainian athletes and in fact we have paid 60 per cent of the expenses for them to be able to undergo training camps so that they are able to prepare themselves for the European Championships that will be held in Munich.”

Championship hosts

As we arrived at the end of the interview, Karamarinov said that the CSSE could be just the start for Malta as a host of European Athletics events.

“This weekend Malta will host the European Championships for Small States and next year the Games of the Small States of Europe will be organised in Malta,” he said.

“That shows that Malta has a great potential to host good level events. And while it’s difficult for Malta to host a European Championship, there are still many events that it can organise, such as the European 10,000m Cup, or the European Athletics Offroad Running Championships.

“Malta has the potential to be not just part of the European family but also a main stakeholder as a European organiser.”

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