Next year Malta will make history when they stage their first ever major international tournament.
The European Under 17 Championships are coming to town (I say town, as Malta isn’t even the size of London)
It will host the last showpiece event of the competition’s current format of eight teams in May 2014 and the country is already getting excited as qualification begins later this year.
Jesmond Abela, the Maltese FA’s operations manager told Uefa.com: “We are in a position that has never occurred before. And I think it will not occur again as this is the last eight-team tournament. It is our only chance for our boys to participate in such a high-level tournament as usually we are out in the qualifying round, we are the minnows. We would like to take a little taste of the big time.”
He continued: “It’s a milestone for us, it’s a milestone for the association. The new administration has been working hard and we have been given faith through our track record, we have always managed to succeed in organising events. They have given us a gift in letting us do this.”
It probably comes as no surprise that this will be the first major international tournament for Malta to participate in the final stages, as they qualify automatically.
“We are preparing them through international matches and through encounters with different countries,” Abela said.
“We have already been to Italy; we will host a tournament in March; and we will participate in Greece in a U16 development tournament together with Azerbaijan. We will look to all possibilities so we can give our best. The group of boys are very enthusiastic about it. We have brought over an Argentinian coach from Italy [Sergio Soldano] to look after the academy so we are preparing well for the occasion.” said Abela.