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Mifsud urges Malta to stand tall

National football legend Michael Mifsud told the young Malta side that "no other player is better than them" as they prepare to host the UEFA European U17 Championship.

Michael Mifsud receiving his 100th Malta cap in 2013
Michael Mifsud receiving his 100th Malta cap in 2013 ©Domenic Aquilina

Striker Michael Mifsud is Malta's most famous footballing export, and for all the goals the 33-year-old scored in Germany, England and Norway, there was nothing like playing for the national team. Mifsud's record 39 goals for Malta is the measure of his talent, and as ambassador at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals, he hopes the next generation can follow in his footsteps.

UEFA.com: You have set a terrific example for Maltese players, both with the national side and your club career abroad. What advice would you give them?

Michael Mifsud: To keep working hard, be as professional as they can, to always believe in their skill and their capabilities, and that no other player is better than them. They can do the same job as any other player in the world.

UEFA.com: What does it mean for Malta to host this tournament?

Mifsud: It is great for Malta, for Maltese football, and for the kids who participate. It is something big, so hopefully they'll enjoy it. This is an opportunity for them to shine.

UEFA.com: You made your international debut 14 years ago. Can you describe how it felt when you first pulled on that Malta jersey?

Mifsud: Amazing. It's something I always wanted. It's a difficult feeling to explain, when you put the jersey on of your country, and you have the badge on your left side. That's everybody's dream, to play for [your] country: you can't beat that. I remember my first A-team game, which was Albania at home. I was about 16. I joined the national team youth [set-up] when I was eight, so I have a lot of games to remember!

UEFA.com: What lessons did you learn playing for those youth teams?

Mifsud: You learn to be professional: train hard, eat well, rest. You learn skills and techniques, and everything that makes you a footballer. Of course everybody is given a gift from God to be a football player, but you have to practice that gift, to make it to your best.

UEFA.com: It is an incredible achievement to reach 100 caps for your country.

Mifsud: I don't think about these things, not even about my goal record or my appearances. I just love playing for my country, and I try and keep myself as fit as possible to keep on playing and give 100%. Then, whatever happens and whatever I achieve, that's an extra bonus for me.

UEFA.com: What was it like to leave Malta and play abroad, first for 1. FC Kaiserslautern in Germany, then in Norway and England?

Mifsud: It was like black and white. I was always prepared for that move, I always wanted it from when I was very young. I have interviews saying I wanted to be a professional footballer playing abroad [from] when I was eight or nine years old. It was always my dream to be a professional and play abroad. So that was my dream come true.

UEFA.com: Talking of moments to treasure: Old Trafford, September 2007 – you scored twice for Coventry City FC against Manchester United FC.

Mifsud: It was something special. To play at Old Trafford in front of 75,000 people, and to win the game with you being the hero, is something everybody dreams about. That is my reward for all the sacrifices I make, as a footballer, as a person. That's what people and players get when they make a lot of sacrifices and they work hard for what they want to achieve. It was just amazing.