Malta's most-capped player, with more than a goal a top-flight game to her name, and national U15 coach, captain Dorianne Theuma spoke to UEFA.com.
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The first opponents for debutants Andorra as the UEFA Women's EURO 2017 preliminary round opens on Saturday are Group 2 hosts Malta – who will be spearheaded by someone with more than a little experience.
In January, Hibernians FC forward Dorianne Theuma played her 300th top-flight match in a career dating back to 1997/98. She has 11 league titles, six Maltese women's footballer of the year awards and more than 300 goals to her name, more than one a game for both Hibernians and Mosta FC, whom the 30-year-old represented between 2008 and 2013.
Not only that, Theuma is Malta's most-capped player, part of the team since their competitive debut against Romania in 2003. After 29 competition fixtures without a win, she scored twice as Malta beat Luxembourg 6-0 in getting through the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup preliminary round; as they now welcome Andorra, the Faroe Islands and Georgia in an attempt to repeat that feat, Theuma – also national Under-15 coach – spoke to UEFA.com.
UEFA.com: You have been a key player in women's football in Malta. How did this transpire? Were you always interested in the game?
Dorianne Theuma: From a very young age, when playing outside with the boys, I always wanted to play football for some reason.
In the streets, at the swings, wherever we were, we used to turn it into a football pitch in my imagination – bending balls pretending the slide was the defensive wall. Let's just say that street football somehow proved good enough for me to play football. Looking back I think it helped me most in my career.
UEFA.com: Recently you celebrated 300 matches in women's football in Malta. What does that mean to you?
Theuma: It means I'm getting old! Joking apart, I see all this as a great accomplishment considering our league in Malta consists of only a few teams, hence not many matches are played each season. I fell very happy, looking back. These were not just 300 matches but 300 memories, 300 lessons, 300 moments of glory. Hopefully I will add more.
UEFA.com: What are your impressions of your opponents in the preliminary round, and do Malta stand a chance of qualifying?
Theuma: They are strong teams. We have played Georgia and the Faroe Islands in previous preliminary rounds. Judging from the past they are all strong sides. However, I believe we have some scores to settle and having experienced what it feels like making it through the qualifiers, I'm sure that will help us fix our minds on this target.
UEFA.com: Tell us about your most memorable moment playing for Malta?
Theuma: Getting through our first World Cup preliminary round will always be the best highlight, so far anyway, when I look back on my Malta career. It was the best tournament ever – personally netting four goals, playing at home, seeing all the sacrifices paying off. But I think the most memorable moment remains that special moment when I first wore the national shirt, sang the national anthem and scored my first goal against Bosnia and Herzegovina [a 1-1 draw in 2007 World Cup qualifying]. Incidentally in that game we also claimed our first-ever competitive point.
UEFA.com: You are coaching at the U15 academy of the Malta Football Association (MFA). Tell us about it and what message you would give to girls eager to make the grade in women's football.
Theuma: I have been working on this group since the girls were U13. I have seen them growing up, maturing as players and progressing session by session. These youngsters are the future of our women's football. I was also privileged to take part in our first-ever U15 friendly international tournament [hosts Malta won 1-0 and drew 0-0 with Romania]. All I can say to aspiring girls is to keep their feet on the ground and keep working hard.