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ASA hurt and disappointed as four players pull out of Euros squad

Caruana Curran to seek re-election for presidency

Aquatic Sports Association of Malta president Joe Caruana Curran and national coach Karl Izzo expressed their disappointment after four regular members of the Malta waterpolo national team have decided not to form part of the national team in the upcoming European Championships in Split, Croatia.

Team captain Steve Camilleri, Jordan Camilleri, Jerome Gabaretta and Jake Muscat have all informed the ASA that they will not be available for selection for the continental finals that will be held in the Croatian capital between August 29 and September 10.

Their withdrawal has left coach Izzo without the services of four of his regular starting seven players for these major championships that will see the national team face Croatia, Greece and France in the group stages later on this month.

“We are heading to the European Championships with a weakened team as unfortunately four players have turned down the national team call-up,” Caruana Curran told a news conference.

“It’s a bitter blow from us. We have always respected all the players that form part of the national team and their clubs and expected to receive the same kind of respect but from now on things will have to change.

“We will no longer delay the start of the summer season so that players who ply their trade abroad will be able to take part from the start. Since some individuals take care more of their interests we will do likewise to ensure that we take care of our interests.

“Fortunately, there are several Maltese players who show huge respect towards the national team, and I’m grateful to them. Our focus now will be on the junior categories where we will try to infuse in them the love and passion for the national team.

“At the end of the day to play for the national team should be an honour for any player.”

Caruana Curran also confirmed that he will seek re-election as ASA president in November’s polls.

“I have decided to seek another three-year term as president of ASA in next November’s elections,” Caruana Curran, who had earlier declared that he could walk away from the acquatic sport governing body, said.

“I have spoken with a number of club officials who have asked me to stay on for another three-year term and I accepted. I would like to give my contribution to help our swimmers in next year’s GSSE in Malta.

“My wish has always been to stay on until the elections of November 2025, where the ASA would be celebrating its 100 years from its foundation and hopefully the clubs will give me their backing in this year’s elections.”

On his part, Izzo said that he felt hurt by the players’ decision to forfeit their place for the upcoming European Championships.

“I feel hurt and disappointed as this time we will not be able to compete in our fourth successive European Championship with our best team,” Izzo said.

“If you are going to compete in major championships like the Europeans you have to go with your best squad but unfortunately we will have four of our starting seven missing as Steve Camilleri, Jordan Camilleri, Jake Muscat and Jerome Gabaretta informed us that they were not ready to play.

“Now we have to move forward and try and select our best possible squad. I have named a 20-man squad and in the coming days I will make my final decision before I announce the final 14-man squad that will be with me in Split.”

Izzo said that Malta have a very difficult draw at the European Championships as they were drawn to face three very strong sides in Croatia, Greece and France.

“We were unlucky with the draw as we were pitted against hosts Croatia, who are building a competitive team for the upcoming Olympics, Greece, who have just placed third at the World Championships, and France who are working hard to have a strong squad for the 2024 Summer Olympics,” Izzo said.

“Our goal is to try and get the highest possible placing between 13th and 16th place. We will use the group matches as a perfect preparation for the opening positional play-off on September 4.”

Apart from the senior national team, the ASA will be represented by the U-16 and the U-19 national selections in major international competitions.

The U-16 selection will be competing in Volos, Greece, in the opening edition of the world championships of this category where they will play against the United States and Kazakhstan.

On the other hand, the U-19 selection will be in action in Montenegro next month when they compete in the age group continental finals.

Anthony Farrugia, who is in charge of both selections, is looking forward to leading his players to such prestigious competitions.

“This is the first time that a Maltese national team is competing in a World Championship,” Farrugia said.

“It’s of a huge pride of us to be competing with our U-16s in such a prestigious competition.

“I feel that the team is well prepared and hopefully we can put on a strong showing.

“The same goes for our U-19s who are currently working hard to arrive for the Montenegro championships in the best possible shape. We have a very talented group and we are confident of registering a good result.”

Funding

The ASA president said that the ASA was facing a huge financial toll this year given that in the next 25 days, there will be three national teams competing in major competitions.

“The ASA has had to carry a huge financial toll this year to ensure it’s national team can compete in these competitions,” Caruana Curran said.

“Unfortunately, last year we lost two sponsors – the Malta Gaming Authority and the Malta Tourism Authority – and that has left us struggling from a financial point of view.

“Unfortunately, in Malta funding from entities such as SportMalta are received after you participate in a major competition and not before and therefore you have to see from where you can get the money to pay for your expenses and that is a major problem.

“I believe that funding should be done before an association competes in an international event but unfortunately, it’s not the case here in Malta, and from that aspect things have to change.”

SQUADS

MALTA U-16

D. Galea Mule, L. Dimech, S. Engerer, G. Bonavia, J. Cassar, D. Bugeja, Z. Cutajar Licari, J. Cutajar, E. Schembri, C. Cutajar, L. Montebello, E. Mallia, I. Schembri.

MALTA U-19

A. Bugeja, M Mifsud, D. Tully, D. Rizzo, J. Cachia, G. Farrugia, J. Cutajar, M. Castillo, D. Borg, J. Bonavia, A. Fenech, S. Gialanze, G. Vassallo, R. Caruana, M. Vassallo, M. Curmi.

MALTA NATIONAL TEAM

N. Grixti, A. Galea, M. Mifsud, J. Gambin, D. Zammit, M. Zammit, B. Plumpton, N. Bugelli, J. Abela, N. Zammit, Z. Mizzi, D. Zammit, J. Tanti, B. Cachia, L. Galea, S. Gialanze, A. Borg Cole, A. Fenech, J. Zerafa Gregory, M. Sciberras.

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