Former Malta goalkeeper Mario Muscat has become the first Maltese footballer to contest 500 top-flight matches on the island, reaching the record landmark with Hibernians FC on Sunday before promptly hanging up his gloves.
Muscat made his 500th Premier League outing in Hibernians' 2-1 home victory against Qormi FC at the National Stadium – and used the occasion to call time on a sparkling career that brought the 38-year-old four league titles, five Maltese Cups and a Maltese footballer of the year trophy.
Before the game, Muscat, who wore a No500 shirt, was presented with mementoes by both the Malta Football Association (MFA) and Hibernians – the Paola-based side for whom he racked up 488 of his top-flight appearances, and one goal, after debuting as a 17-year-old in 1993.
Edison struck a double as Muscat marked the occasion with a victory, and afterwards the history-making custodian told UEFA.com: "Stepping out onto the same pitch where I won so many honours with my club and played many great games with the national team was not easy and I had to control my emotions. Notching up 500 appearances is no easy feat – it will be difficult for any other player in Malta to catch me!"
Muscat's 12 other matches in Malta's top tier came during a loan spell with Vittoriosa Stars FC during the second half of last season. However, he returned to Hibernians to complete his remarkable tally in their first two fixtures of the new campaign, his 90 minutes against Qormi coming after 27 in last Saturday's 3-0 triumph at Floriana FC.
Of his decision to retire from playing, the veteran – a national-team player from 1996 to 2009 – added: "It was not easy to decide if it was the right time to quit as I still feel fit to go on for one or two seasons. But I have won every major honour the game here can offer so, yes, I am more than pleased. Coaching will definitely be my next step."
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