"Football is like our religion," 122-times capped former Malta defender David Carabott told UEFA.com as the island nation prepares to stage the U17 finals.
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Capped a record 122 times by his country, David Carabott won Maltese titles with Hibernians FC, Valletta FC, Sliema Wanderers FC and home-town club Marsaxlokk FC, as well as representing Ghajnsielem FC on Malta's sister island Gozo.
Carabott celebrates his 46th birthday during the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, and with around 500,000 people packed into Malta's 316 square kilometres, he knows the young players at the finals have plenty of friendly faces to meet as well as great things to see.
"Thinking back to when I was playing, I would never have imagined Malta would be able to stage a UEFA final tournament, but with the way the facilities have improved in the country in recent years, this has become a possibility," he told UEFA.com. "Malta is a very special footballing nation, because we are so small, but football is like our religion too. It's the most popular sport here in Malta and it's the dream of every kid to be a football player.
"Visitors can expect a good standard of football here in Malta, and good weather too – it will be very sunny. And Malta is a very nice country. Everyone who comes to the U17 finals should have a proper look around Malta and visit Gozo – there are lots of interesting places to see. There's a lot of good Maltese food too!"
Now a coach, former defender Carabott will be watching the U17 finals with interest, and is hoping Malta can seize their opportunity to shine. "The Malta team that play at this tournament are very lucky to have this opportunity to play against the very best sides of their age. They have to give their absolute maximum and they can be sure that everyone in Malta will be behind them through the whole tournament," he said.
"This could be the only final tournament they get to play at, so they have to take the most they can from it. They have to go with the mindset that their opponents are just players like them, and it's a great opportunity to showcase what they can do. There will be a lot of scouts around, so who knows?"