The president of the Malta Football Association (MFA), Norman Darmanin Demajo, has visited UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.
Mr Darmanin Demajo held talks with UEFA president Michel Platini and senior UEFA officials on, among other things, the development of football in Malta and the relationship between the MFA and UEFA, which is underpinned by the European body's HatTrick programme providing infrastructure and sporting support to UEFA's 53 member associations.
Malta loves football and, earlier this year, the MFA and everyone involved in the game on the Mediterranean island celebrated a set of fine milestones – 100 years since national football competitions were first played in the country, the national league having kicked off in 1909/10, and the 50th anniversary of the MFA's membership of both UEFA and FIFA.
"It's an important personal moment for me," Mr Darmanin Demajo said of his visit to UEFA. "I see UEFA now in the role of the father, and the associations as the children. I feel UEFA's support, and UEFA has understood the balance between the associations and the clubs, and also between football politics and passion.
"The HatTrick programme is a typical example of UEFA putting its money where its mouth is," he added. "HatTrick is also about educating clubs and associations. It is very important that UEFA has taken this role, and I'm very happy to feel UEFA's backing." HatTrick funds are being used in particular to bolster football's infrastructure in Malta – in areas such as facilities, artificial surfaces, adequate floodlighting and player development.
"Football is by far the most popular game in Malta, and always has been – not only the local leagues," said Mr Darmanin Demajo, who added that fans on the island are also passionate about football elsewhere. For example, the oldest Manchester United FC supporters' club is based in Malta.
"It's been described as a football-crazy island," said the MFA president. "Every village has its church ... and its football clubs. There is terrific enthusiasm. We recognise our limitations, but this doesn't reduce the passion. Success is not only measured by results, it is also measured by grassroots interest, women's and youth football, and every youngster playing for his village. We are going to invest in the future."
What wish does Mr Darmanin Demajo have for Maltese football in the coming period? "I want our teams to win the respect of their opponents in every game we play. I want opponents to say that although we are a small nation, we have a big heart, and that it's not easy to beat us. That is my dream."
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