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Watch: MBA president Paul Sultana hopes Championship for Small States will boost game in Malta

The Malta Basketball Association is set for a busy week of international competitions as both the men’s and the women’s selections will be in action at the European Championship for Small States.

The men’s team, under the charge of the newly-appointed coach Alan Walls, will be hopeful of a strong home showing when they are in action at the Ta’ Qali Pavilion.

On the other hand, the women’s selection spearheaded by coach Angela Adamoli, are playing in Cyprus.

All the attention of the Maltese basketball lovers will be at the Ta’ Qali Pavilion on Tuesday when the tournament kicks off with the opening matches which will see Malta take on Azerbaijan in their Group B opener at 6.30pm.

Video; Matthew Mirabelli

Paul Sultana, the Malta Basketball Association president, said that it was the governing body’s wish to stage this international tournament at the revamped Ta’ Qali Pavilion and hopes the Maltese fans will fill the stands and give their support to the home side.

“We have decided to bring this tournament to Malta as we wanted to showcase the beauty of our revamped basketball courts in Ta’ Qali,” Sultana told the Times of Malta.

“Here in Ta’ Qali we have a jewel and we are keen to see our national team playing in front of our fans in such a prestigious competition. I really hope that we will have a good number of fans coming to support the team and give them that much-needed push so they can get the result we are aspiring for.

“A lot of work has been done in the past week in preparation. FIBA has increased its demands for the organisation of this tournament, and we had to do a lot of work we never thought was needed.

“But still this has been a new experience for us, and we are looking forward to have a great tournament.”

The European Championship for Small States comes just under a year away from the biggest sporting event to be held in Malta next year – the 2023 Games of the Small States of Europe – and Sultana said that this tournament will be a perfect preparation for the national team given the top-quality opposition the team will be facing.

“The 2023 GSSE in Malta was another reason why we wanted to stage these championships here this year,” Sultana said.

“The tournament will be the perfect preparation for the 2023 GSSE as the team will be facing some quality opponents. We are heading into the tournament with a united group of players. The only absentee in our ranks is Kurt Cassar, who is carrying an injury, and felt that he shouldn’t play in the tournament.

“We have a new coach, Alan Walls, and for the first time we will not have any language barrier with our players as we have an American at the helm while before we were used with Italian coaches.

“No doubt this tournament will be a great test for the team who will be facing quality sides like Armenia and Azerbaijan who have in their fold some players who played in the American NBA.

“Certainly, I would love to see the team win the gold medal but we are still in a bit of an unknown  to see how competitive we will be and everything will depend on how the players perform on the day.”

On the other hand, the women’s selection will be in action in Cyprus when they will be up against Norway, Cyprus, Andorra and Kosovo.

“We are fielding a women’s team boosted with some fresh young talent,” Sultana said.

“In fact, we have three players who ply their trade abroad as they are based in colleges in the United States and the United Kingdom and those experiences have helped them to nurture their talent.

“There is also a small change in the coaching staff as Samantha Brincat, a former member of the team, is now the assistant coach. We have a team which has a blend of youth and experience and for the young members of the team the tournament in Cyprus will be a great learning curve.

“We have been working hard for several weeks to prepare the team and honestly I don’t think that the coaching staff and the association could have done more so that the team can deliver a positive result.”

Turning back his sights on the men’s tournament that will be played at the Ta’ Qali Pavilion, Sultana is hopeful that young basketball players will go and watch the Maltese national team as it can inspire them for a career in the sport.

“The Malta Basketball Association is blessed to have many young players playing the game,” he said.

“If you come at the weekends here, you can see a lot of young players playing in our youth competitions.

“For these youngsters this tournament is the perfect opportunity to see a good level of basketball. They also have the chance to watch players such as Tevin Falzon and Sam Deguara playing on home soil.

“Unfortunately, in Malta we have a drop in participation among youngsters at the age of 15 or 16 years and hopefully this tournament can inspire and give them the encouragement needed to pursue a career in basketball or any other sport.”

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