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Busuttil broke the mould for Malta

Published: Wednesday 2 February 2011, 10.00CET
The first Maltese footballer at a top-flight European club, striker Carmel Busuttil flew the flag for his country as captain of Belgium's KRC Genk.
by Domenic Aquilina
Busuttil broke the mould for Malta
Carmel Busuttil in action against England in 2000 ©Getty Images
Published: Wednesday 2 February 2011, 10.00CET

Busuttil broke the mould for Malta

The first Maltese footballer at a top-flight European club, striker Carmel Busuttil flew the flag for his country as captain of Belgium's KRC Genk.

To help mark UEFA's Jubilee in 2004, each national association was asked to nominate its most outstanding player of the past 50 years. Malta chose Carmel Busuttil as their Golden Player.

The choice of Carmel Busuttil as Malta's Golden Player was a deserved tribute to a man whose glittering career spanned 22 years.

Busuttil's reaction was typically modest. "It is a great honour being chosen by the Malta Football Association as Malta's best player of the past 50 years. I would also like to thank all my team-mates of that era, the likes of Martin Gregory and Ray Vella, as without their contribution I would not be receiving this honour," he said at the time.

Busuttil spent six years playing in the Belgian First Division with KRC Genk from 1988-94, and for four of them was team captain. The club's top scorer for three consecutive seasons, he played a total of 183 matches for Genk, registering 57 goals. Both on and off the pitch he was the consummate professional, and as such proved himself to be his country's most eminent football ambassador.

'Buzu' started out in 1979 as a 16-year-old with local side Rabat Ajax FC, and was instrumental in helping them secure two league titles and one Maltese Trophy. These victories led to appearances in the European Champion Clubs' Cup against FC Porto and AŠK Inter Bratislava, and it was not long before he was looking to enhance his career abroad.

In 1987 Busuttil moved to Italian semi-professional outfit AS Verbania, and the following year to Genk. Thus he became the first Maltese to play for a top-flight club in Europe, and there he would stay until 1994 when he returned to Malta to join Sliema Wanderers FC. At Sliema he enjoyed further success, winning a championship medal and a Maltese Trophy, and by the time of his retirement in 2001 he had played 669 games for Sliema, scoring 236 goals.

Busuttil did not confine his talents to domestic football. He was the first Maltese international to earn 100 caps and in all represented his country 113 times between 1988 and 2000, hitting 23 goals. His pure footballing ability – great ball skills, an amazing turn of pace and a goalscorer's instinct – and admirable dedication brought him other accolades including two Malta Footballer of the Year awards.

Busuttil has also won wider acclaim. In 2000 he received the prestigious Order of Merit of the Republic from the then president of Malta, Professor Guido de Marco, for his contribution to Maltese sport. He continues to make a contribution, albeit now in the coaching arena.

After retiring, he established his own football school, then served as assistant to Malta coach Horst Heese until July 2005. Busuttil subsequently took up his first head coach's post with Pietà Hotspurs FC in November 2006 and stayed there until 2008. The following year he accepted the role of assistant national coach working under his former Maltese international colleague John Buttigieg.

A genial and modest man, Busuttil cuts an inspirational figure. "To those youngsters who are still aspiring to make the grade in top-level football, I say have faith in your abilities. I am a clear example of a player from a minnow country like Malta who made the grade with a top European club, just because I believed in myself," he said.

Last updated: 2 February 2011

 

Last updated: 02/03/11 15.40CET

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