Having returned to England last week after two weeks reporting on Maltese football, I take a look back at my time, which included taking part in a training session with a local Maltese side.
During my time in Malta I went to train with Santa Lucia Falcons, an amateur Maltese football team who were formed just eight months ago.
I was invited down to training by the club’s founder and owner, Robert Teuma alongside his first team manager, Etienne Sillato.
The first feeling I got when I walked onto the training pitch was the positive team spirit. This is something which was seen throughout the training session as the players would continuously joke and laugh with each other. Etienne mentioned how well the team has bonded and that they understand there is no I in team.
After just a few minutes on the pitch I felt part of the team despite being the only Englishman there. I wasn’t completely alone as the side features a Real Madrid supporting Spanish midfielder, who looked like a clone of Sergio Ramos, it was just a shame he didn’t play centre back!
This was something totally new to me as I have only experienced youth football and the occasional piece of men’s football back in England. It was fair to say I was nervous!
I began speaking to Etienne who told me about the lack of sponsorship and interest in the Maltese Amateur League football as well as that of the youth setups, known as “Nursery Teams” in Malta. This is something which I then compared to England where brands such as McDonalds and Vauxhall are regularly funding football of all levels.
Etienne went onto mention how the team are continuously looking for sponsors as Maltese companies are not interested in supporting an amateur team. I mentioned how in England nearly every amateur team from youth level to men’s level have a sponsor or get funding of some kind.
This is something I have experienced face to face, because when I organised the two charity matches for Cancer Research UK, the two teams needed kits and I wanted to keep spending low in order to raise more money! I managed to receive sponsorship for both matches, firstly from Bishop Grosseteste University and secondly from SHD Composites, who I would like to thank to this day for their support.
Yes, sponsorship can be difficult within the English amateur game but there is still a strong support through larger companies, even if this is something which does not come in every season, by a side getting a new kit every year, some teams continue to use the same one for a number of years.
An example I wish to use is that of Ruskington Rovers men’s XI, when I was at U17 level I remember seeing their first team players in “Tulip” branded kits, this is something which continued for a number of season as the players would use the same training jackets. The “Tulip” kits were even used by the U17 side as an away kit.
I think this is something Maltese amateur teams should look at in order to save funds. They should place together a sponsorship package for a company, both local and national which can fund for three years.
Therefore, the company can get their brand out in the public eye for a three year spell which means that the side, receives money for kits to be used for three seasons, and the company gets exposure, but from what Etienne was saying, this isn’t as easy as it sounds as companies turn their heads straight away when the word amateur is mentioned.
After speaking to the club chairman, I found out that the club would be looking at a cost of €600 for three years, that’s around £520 according to Google’s Euro to Sterling generator.
This is something which is still available, if you are interested in sponsoring a Maltese football team.
Following my training session with Santa Lucia Falcons, I spoke to the side’s team manager, Etienne Sillato.
How are you finding your time as manager of Santa Lucia Falcons?
The fact that I joined a team which was still in its very early days, my first task was to find players that were going to be committed throughout the whole season. After seven months of work, the team is almost done with only some bits and pieces left. From my very first day with the team I always preached to the players that we are a team and friends. Therefore, I expect friendship between each and every one of us and and that every one plays for his team mates and not for their own glory.
How did your side’s friendly go and what positives did you take from the game?
Last Thursday’s game which was against the M.F.A. 3rd Division side of Mtarfa FC, the result did not go in favor of us. We lost the game 5-0. Throughout the game we had our chances and we hit the post three times and had one goal which wasn’t seen by the referee. We even lost the chance to score from a penalty kick.
With these we also had three chances on goal which were cleared from the goal line with their goalkeeper completely beaten. What I saw from my boys was that although they were losing they continued to play with a very positive attitude. They played for each other and they showed great team spirit, and great teamwork on the pitch. I can say that the team is maturing a lot considering that we only train once a week.
How will you continue to prepare for the upcoming season?
We will continue the same as we are doing right now. The only difference will be that for the last six weeks before the season starts we will be adding another training session.
Where do you see the side finishing in your first year?
Well my aspiration is to win the title in our first season. To keep realistic and our feet to the ground in my opinion we will end up mid table.