Birkirkara FC will become the first Maltese team to play in the UEFA Women's Cup tomorrow and coach Kenneth Costantino knows it will test his team to the full.
When Nora Agliano put Birkirkara FC into the lead during their Maltese Women's League decider against Hibernians FC last April, she scored probably the most important goal in the eleven-year history of the team. Although Hibernians equalised, the 1-1 draw meant their eight-season reign as champions was over - and that Birkirkara would become Malta's first-ever representatives in the UEFA Women's Cup.
Their debut European campaign begins on Thursday with a tough Group A5 fixture against Italian champions ASD CF Bardolino Verona, and does not get much easier as they then take on Spain’s Athletic Club BFKEB two days later and finish on Tuesday against Slovenian mini-tournament hosts ŽNK KRKA Novo Mesto. It is another challenge for coach Kenneth Costantino, who began his second spell as coach a year ago and masterminded their maiden and unbeaten league success.
As he prepared to leave for Slovenia, Costantino told uefa.com: "Last season can be regarded as a milestone for our women's team and the club. We finally managed to halt Hibernians' stranglehold, by not only winning our first-ever title, but also doing the double at the expense of Hibernians themselves who we beat 2-1 in the Maltese Cup semi-final last season. We went on to win the final 8-0 against St. Venera [Lightnings FC]."
But he is realistic about their chances in Europe. "Participating in the UEFA Women's Cup will clearly be an experience for my girls and for all the team," Costantino said. "To be honest I do not expect miracles. On our debut we are up against none other than Italian champions Bardolini Verono, who supply most of their players to their national squad. But I am sure my players will gain invaluable experience from these three matches."