Despite being a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean, Malta is extremely proud when it comes to the game of football and Maltese football history.
This season the Malta Football Association (MFA) and everyone involved in the game on the island are celebrating an impressive set of milestones. It is 100 years since national football competitions were first played in the country, the national league having kicked off in 1909/10, and the current campaign also marks the 50th anniversary of the MFA's membership of both UEFA and FIFA.
Celebrations to recognise these landmark dates are being organised by the MFA and comprise a variety of activities spread over several sporting, administrative, educational and cultural events. UEFA will be joining in with the festivities this week, with the UEFA Executive Committee, chaired by the UEFA president, Michel Platini, holding its first meeting of the year in Malta on Thursday and Friday (click here for details).
Throughout the years, the MFA has produced a number of distinguished officials who have filled prestigious posts for UEFA. The association's current president, Dr Joseph Mifsud, is a long-serving member of the UEFA Executive Committee and now a UEFA vice-president. Born in Qrendi and trained as a lawyer, Dr Mifsud was first elected to the UEFA Executive Committee at the UEFA Ordinary Congress in Vienna in April 1994, and is presently serving a four-year term of office until 2011. He also served on the FIFA Executive Committee from 1998 to 2000.
In Malta, Dr Mifsud was elected to the head of the national association in 1992 and has represented the island's football affairs with distinction for the last 18 years. "The MFA is proud to be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Malta National Football League during the 1909/10 season," he told uefa.com. "Since then, the number of participants in the national league has increased from five to 52 clubs. The national league has been held 95 times, including the current season. Nine clubs and the King's Own Malta Regiment have won the title. The most successful club have been Sliema Wanderers FC, champions 26 times, followed by Floriana FC with 25 titles.
"Since 1962, the champions have represented the MFA in the European Champion Clubs' Cup and UEFA Champions League, and, depending on the number of places to which the MFA is entitled, the second and third-placed clubs enter the UEFA Europa League, previously the UEFA Cup," he added.
The MFA has enjoyed full FIFA and UEFA affiliation since 1960, paving the way for the association to participate fully at international level. All in all, the football community on the island has plenty to celebrate and one of the highlights of the MFA's programme of events is the 100th Anniversary Cup, a knockout competition featuring all 52 clubs and due to run until the final on 14 April. A more imminent engagement is the concert and gala dinner that will take place tonight for representatives of the Maltese and European football families, while next week Malta will host the UEFA winter referees' courses, to be attended by the continent's leading match officials.
The MFA has done much sterling work in promoting football and communicating the joys of the sport throughout the country, and has always been grateful for any technical and material support received from UEFA and FIFA. In geographical terms Malta may be small, but it has played its full part in the success story of European football.
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