- Sliema striker Orosco Anonam left Malta for a trial in China. Anonam has been attracting the interest of a number of clubs, and in particular, Liaoning Fushun Tegang. Liaoning is one of the top clubs in China and placed third last season. Accompanying Anonam is another Nigerian striker Uwa Ogbodo, former player of Xghajra, Sliema and Qormi.
Anonam was also attracting the interest of top French side AJ Auxerre. He was due to join them for a trial but since the deadline is Thursday, there was not enough time to hold discussions with the French club. Auxerre coach Daniel Roland was present at Ta' Qali last Sunday to assess the player's qualities. Interested in the Nigerian striker were also Croatia Zagreb of Croatia.
Anonam will be back in time to play for the Blues in the next league game against Floriana on February 17.
- Birkirkara will once again have to cope with the injury of another player as midfielder Hubert Suda has been ruled out for eight weeks after sustaining a knee injury. Suda is currently conducting light training only. According to the club's official web site, www.birkirkarafc.com, if his condition does not improve, he will have to undergo another operation. The international midfielder missed the last league match against Naxxar. He will be unavailable for the remaining two matches from the second round and the first four matches from the Championship Pool.
Meanwhile Valletta goalkeeper Ernest Barry will have to rest for around four weeks as he tore a chest muscle during the match against his former team, Sliema Wanderers on Sunday. This means that Barry could miss the last match from the second round against Birkirkara. Barry played an excellent game for the champions denying the Blues on several occasions.
- Marsa team-manager Twanny Mercieca was suspended for two years following an incident which occurred at the end of the first half of last Saturday's Premier League match against Hibernians. As the players and officials of the two teams were heading to the dressing rooms, someone pointed a cigarette in the face of Hibernians midfielder Miguel Mifsud. The cigarette burnt Mifsud's upper lip. According to the report of referee Charles Agius, it was Mercieca who "attacked" Mifsud. Mercieca has been suspended till January 29 2004. Marsa will be appealing from this decision which they are labelling as a wrong one. The club is claiming that Agius relied on what he had been told by one of the assistant referees. Marsa FC said that assistant referee Charles Micallef passed on remarks to their supporters and it was at this point that a plastic bottle was thrown in his direction. Although they condemned this incident, they said that it is not true that the bottle was thrown when Justin Tellus was sent off.
Meanwhile, the MFA Disciplinary Commissioner suspended five Premier League players for one match. Two of these are Marsa players Justin Tellus and Alan Mifsud who will be missing the next league match against Pietà. Also suspended for one match are Silvio Vella of Hibernians, Richard Buhagiar of Sliema and Ivan Zammit of Valletta.
- The first Pepsi Under-10s Football Festival for this season was held recently at the Victor Tedesco Stadium, in Hamrun, with twelve teams participating. This schedule for this season envisages that twelve football festivals will be held till May 2002.
The Malta Youth Football Association (MYFA) organises these football tournaments to provide the ideal opportunity for young aspiring footballers to train in their favourite sports discipline. The difference between competitive matches and these football festivals is that the emphasis is on basic coaching and football skills rather than on winning.
As in previous years, there has been a great response from nurseries throughout Malta and 46 nurseries are taking part in this year's festivals. Apart from sponsoring the festivals, Pepsi will be supplying sports equipment to the hosting nurseries. These will differ from last year to enable as many nurseries as possible the opportunity to host the events.
"The success achieved through the previous editions of these festivals, spurred Simonds Farsons Cisk plc, bottlers of Pepsi in Malta, to team up once again with the Youth Football Association (YFA) to organise another series of football festivals. The next Pepsi Under-10 football festival will be held at the Tarxien Football Ground on Saturday 3rd February 2002," said Ms Joanne Scerri Valentino, Pepsi Brand Executive.
For the third consecutive year, Pepsi is also sponsoring a similar series of football festivals for the local under-12s nurseries. Forty-one nurseries have signed up for participation.
- The Malta Football Association announced a change of fixtures in the Rothmans Premier League for the weekend due to security measures. Hamrun Spartans vs Floriana scheduled for Saturday at the National Stadium will now be played at the Hibernians Ground on Sunday February 3 at 15:15. Valletta vs Naxxar Lions will now be played at the National Stadium on Saturday 2 at 14:00. Pietà Hotspurs vs Lija Athletic scheduled for Sunday at 13:15 has been transferred from the Victor Tedesco Stadium to the Hibernians Ground.
Next Sunday's Rothmans First Division matches St. Patrick vs Qormi and St. Andrews vs Mqabba will be played at the Victor Tedesco Stadium and not at the Hibernians Ground.
- The eleventh edition of the Rothmans International Tournament was launched during a press conference on Monday. Speaking first during the press conference was MFA president Dr Joe Mifsud. Mifsud said that this was the last edition of the tournament due to new legislation which will be banning sponsorship of sports events by tobacco companies as from next year. Mifsud thanked Central Cigarettes Co Ltd and Rothmans for the sponsorship of several competitions throughout the years and their help for the improvement of the facilities at the National Stadium which include the seating at the Rothmans Stand and the scoreboards.
The Rothmans International Tournament which has started as an annual tournament between three clubs and the national team, has now developed as a biennial tournament for national teams. The tournament has now become a prestigious one. In fact before it was difficult to find countries willing to take part in the tournament, now a number of countries ask the MFA to take part from time to time. The MFA usually tries to choose teams which are more or less on the same level as Malta or slightly better. Dr Mifsud said the MFA's target now is to find a new sponsor which will help the association keep organizing this tournament.
Taking part in this year's edition are Lithuania, Moldavia and Jordan. The tournament will be held on a one-round league basis between the 9th and 13th February at the National Stadium. National coach Sigi Held said this tournament provided Malta a good opportunity to gain more international experience. He said that although Hubert Suda is part of the national squad, he will not take part in the tournament as he is ruled out through a long-term injury. Noel Turner, Brian Said and Antoine Zahra are still recovering from injuries but may be available during the tournament. Meanwhile Sigi Held announced that Sliema defender Carlo Mamo and Naxxar striker Daniel Bogdanovic are currently on a trial period with the national team. They are attending training sessions with the national squad and eventually may be called to form part of the team.
Ronnie Abela, General Manager of Central Cigarette Co Ltd, said he was disappointed the partnership between his company and the MFA was coming to an end. He wished the association success and hoped there will be other firms ready to step in and sponsor the MFA competitions.
- Other topics mentioned by Dr Joe Mifsud were the draws for EURO 2004 European Championship and the cureent debate on corruption following an interview aired on PBS programme Total Sport, produced by Simon Farrugia.
Dr Mifsud said the draw presented a big attraction for the public thanks to world champions France. Malta had already played against the other three teams in friendly matches. Before it was not possible to meet these countries in competitive matches since they used to have a similar ranking as ours.Delegates from the MFA and national coach Sigi Held will be meeting representatives of other countries in a meeting in Cyprus on February 19 where alll the parties will be discussing the fixtures and come up with a calendar for the games. The professional scheme will be retained but now the association will be paying clubs part of the national players' salaries. Clubs will be receiving other benefits which will ultimately guarantee a progessional setup.
Dr Mifsud went on to talk about corruption - a topic raised during the programme Total Sport on the Public Broadcasting Services on January 7 during which an interview with an anonymous person stirred a lot of controversy. The president of the association said that the MFA has asked the PBS to give them a copy of the said programme.
After watching the programme, Mifsud said that the MFA felt that the content of the interview was defemating. Talk of corruption was common in Malta, said Dr Mifsud, with ministers, civil servants and the Law Courts etc. being linked to corruption.
The problem was to enforce the law. He claimed the MFA has always worked hard to fight corruption, first by setting up a Board of Investigation which used to investigate allegations. This board has now the power to decide.
What the MFA was objecting to as regards the interview on Total Sport was the claim by the person, who remained anonymous, that "the administration at Ta' Qali corrupts referees". Dr Mifsud said that the tape will be sent to the Board of Investigation which will be meeting next week. Everything which was said during the programme, including the claims by a president of a Premier club (Joe Caruana Curran of Valletta).
Talking about the TV rights contract - a topic which was at the centre of a dispute between the president of the MFA and the Premier League Clubs' Standing Committee, Dr Mifsud insisted that with the contract proposed by the Premier clubs, they would not have earned a single "penny" more than they will do, thanks to the contract with CWL. He challenged the Premier clubs to explain how they could get a better deal.
Without being specific, Mifsud warned those who are not abiding by the MFA's regulations that the association will be taking action against them.
The MFA president also spoke about the draws for the UEFA Under 17 and Under 19 Championships. Due to the change in the format, the mini-tournaments in the first qualifying round will now have to be played by October. Malta will be facing Norway, Cyprus ad Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Under 19 competition and Sweden, Northern Ireland and Denmark in the Under 17 Championship. Dr Mifsud said he hoped the progress shown within the Under 19 national team is expressed in the Under 17 side as well. The team will be taking part in a mini-tournament in Armenia in March.
The Italian FA had asked the MFA to send a referee for the friendly match between Italy and the United States in Catania. FIFA referee Joe Attard has been chosen for this match. He will be assisted by Philip Agiua and Ronnie Farrugia.
The Executive Committee of UEFA has accepted a proposal of the technical board in order to promote Malta to the UEFA 'A' Coaching Convention. Dr Mifsud said that this is the result of the organisaton of coaching courses and the work of MFA technical director Horst Heese.
The president of the MFA said works on the Millennium Stand are nearing completion. Tenders for the the final touches on the stand have already been given out and works have already started. But still no date has been fixed for the inauguaration of the stand as all depends on when the works will be completed.
- Premier League Floriana vs Pietà H. 5-1, Sliema W. vs Valletta 1-2
- First Division Mqabba vs Xghajra T. 0-0, Rabat A. vs Gozo 1-0
- Second Division Msida SJ vs Mellieha 3-1, Gzira U. vs Dingli S. 0-0
- Third Division Sirens vs Siggiewi 4-0, Fgura U. vs Gharghur 0-1
- Women's League Hibernians vs Raiders 5-0, Birkirkara vs Melita 3-1
- Gozo - Second Division Qala SJ vs Gharb R. 1-0, Kercem A. vs Xaghra U. 0-4
- A new synthetic pitch at the Salinos Ground, the training grounds of Valletta FC, was inaugurated by Parliamentary Secretary for Sport, Jesmond Mugliett, on Sunday. The first phase of the Salinos Ground project, which cost around Lm160,000, also included embellishment works on the area. The next phase includes the installation of another synthetic turf pitch and restoration on the main gate of the training grounds which is situated on the Valletta bastions.
- Premier League Naxxar L. vs Birkirkara 1-6, Hibernians vs Marsa 3-2
- Second Division Luqa SA vs Zurrieq 1-0, Attard vs Zebbug R. 0-1
- Hamrun Spartans midfielder Matthew Galea was suspended for two matches by the MFA Disciplinary Commissioner following the head-butting incident in the match between Hamrun Spartans and Naxxar Lions. The referee and the other match officials had failed to identify the culprit but the match inspector, former FIFA assistant referee, Emmanuel Zammit saw clearly what had happened and described the incident in his report.
- Malta was drawn to meet world champions and European champions France in the qualifying round for European Championships EURO 2004 which will be held in Portugal. The draws were held at the Europarque Congress Centre in Santa Maria da Feira, Porto on Friday. Portuguese football legend Eusebio drew the balls from the pot together with UEFA Chief Executive Gerhard Aigner and France were pitted with Slovenia, Israel, Cyprus and Malta in Group 1.
It is the first time Malta will be meeting France. On the other hand, Malta faced the other three countries on several occasions in friendly matches. Slovenia played twice against Malta in matches from the traditional Rothmans Tournament which is held in Malta in February. In 1994, Slovenia won 1-0, two years later the two teams tied in a scoreless draw. Malta met Israel four times - three wins for Israel and a draw. Malta faced Cyprus five times - a win for each side and three draws. The last meeting between the two countries was back in March 1998 with the game ending in a 1-1 draw. France are currently on top of the FIFA World Rankings, Slovenia are number 25, Israel number 49, Cyprus number 79 and Malta 131st. France and Slovenia have only met once – the French winning 3-2 in a friendly shortly before EURO 2000. Israel and Cyprus also met in the EURO 2000 qualifiers, when both won their respective home games.
The draws in the other groups were as follows:
Group 2: Romania, Denmark, Norway, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Luxembourg
Group 3: Czech Republic, Netherlands, Austria, Belarus, Moldova
Group 4: Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Latvia, San Marino
Group 5: Germany, Scotland, Iceland, Lithuania, Faroe Islands
Group 6: Spain, Ukraine, Greece, N. Ireland, Armenia
Group 7: Turkey, England, Slovakia, FYR Macedonia, Liechtenstein
Group 8: Belgium, Croatia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Andorra
Group 9: Italy, Yugoslavia, Finland, Wales, Azerbaijan
Group 10: Rep. of Ireland, Russia, Switzerland, Georgia, Albania
A total of 12 dates have been reserved for the qualifying matches in accordance with the international match calendar on which the national associations will have to stage their eight qualifying matches: 7/8 September 2002, 12/13 October 2002, 15/16 October 2002, 29/30 March 2003, 1/2 April 2003, 7/8 June 2003, 10/11 June 2003, 6/7 September 2003, 9/10 September 2003, 11/12 October 2003.
- Third Division St. George's vs San Gwann 0-4, Pembroke A. vs Mgarr U. 0-0
- The draws for the UEFA Under 21, Under 19 and Under 17 competitions were held over two days, Thursday and Friday.
The teams which Malta will be facing in the 2002/04 UEFA European Under-21 Championship are the same countries which will be meeting the senior side. Therefore Ray 'Zazu' Farrugia's U-21 side will be facing France, Slovenia, Israel and Cyprus. The draw for the qualifying round was held on Friday, immediately after the EURO 2004 qualifying competition draw.
The draw for the 2002/03 UEFA European Under-19 European Championship was held on Thursday at the Porto Palacio Hotel in Porto. For the youth competitions, the UEFA Executive Committee will be staged according to a new format with the top-six ranked countries in Europe according to performances in the last three tournaments qualify directly for the second qualifying round and will therefore not compete in the preliminary round. Malta was drawn in Group 7 together with Norway, Cyprus and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The draw for the 2002/03 UEFA European Under-17 European Championship was also held on Thursday. Here Malta was drawn to meet Sweden, Northern Ireland and Denmark in Group 9.
- Valletta have filed the registration of Gilbert Agius at the MFA on Wednesday evening and therefore the Malta international striker will be eligible to play for the Citizens in this weekend's big match against Sliema Wanderers.
- The draw for the semi-finals of the Rothmans Second and Third Division Knock-Out resulted as follows: Zebbug Rangers vs Senglea Athletic; Msida St Joseph vs Dingli Swallows. The two semi-final matches are scheduled to take place on Sunday February 10 at the Centenary Stadium. Zebbug reached the semi-finals following a 3-0 win over Tarxien Rainbows while Senglea defeated Third Division side Melita 2-0. Dingli Swallows made it to the semi-finals after beating Luqa St. Andrew's 4-3 in the penalty shoot-out following a 2-2 draw On the other hand, Msida St. Joseph beat San Gwann 3-0.
- The MFA Control and Disciplinary Board has imposed transfer-prohibitions on two Premier clubs, Birkirkara and Hamrun Spartans. Birkirkara failed to honour decisions of the Players and Coaches Complaints Board over payments to two former players. The Stripes owe Carlo Mamo, who now plays for Sliema, Lm982 and Nenad Veselji, who now plays for Sliema as well, Lm1,650. On the other hand, Hamrun Spartans are yet to pay Lm500 to Zurrieq as part of the transfer fee of Nikolai Kirilov who joined Hamrun earlier this season.
Meanwhile during the meeting of the Council of the Malta FA, it has been announced that a numbe of clubs and players have written to the association regarding payments due from other clubs. All cases will be discussed by the Board of Control and Discipline. Hamrun Spartans owe Hibernians Lm750 for Stefan Sultana amd Lm2,100 for Darren Attard. Valletta also owe Hibernians Lm5,000 for the transfer of David Carabott. Hamrun owe Floriana Lm2,500 for David Galea and Marsa are due to pay Zurrieq Lm945 for Nikolai Slavtchev. Naxxar player-coach is due to be paid Lm1,750 by his former club Pietà Hotspurs.
- Malta international striker Gilbert Agius returned Malta on Tuesday after a most unfortunate experience with Italian Serie C1 side Pisa. Agius was given a most warm welcome by the Valletta supporters who flocked to the Malta International Airport to greet the player. Valletta are expected to file his registration on Wednesday and therefore Agius should be eligible to play for the Citizens in the match against Sliema Wanderers.
- Only one Premier League player was suspended after the four Premier League matches that were played during the weekend. Hibernians defender Branko Nisevic was suspended for one game after collecting a fourth yellow card in the 4-0 win over Lija Athletic. He will now miss the next league match against Marsa on Saturday.
- Premier League Lija A. vs Hibernians 0-4, Naxxar L. vs Sliema W. 1-4
- First Division Mosta vs Marsaxlokk 2-1, Balzan Y. vs St. Andrews 3-2
- Second Division Senglea A. vs Tarxien R. 2-0, Melita vs Sta. Venera L. 1-3
- Third Division Ghaxaq vs Kirkop U. 2-1, Ta' Xbiex vs Gudja U. 2-2
- Women's League Mosta vs Hibernians 0-3, Melita vs Rabat A. 3-0
- Gozo - First Division Zebbug R. vs Ghajnsielem 0-3, Nadur Y. vs Oratory Y. 4-1
- Premier League Valletta vs Hamrun S. 3-0, Birkirkara vs Marsa 3-0
- Second Division Mellieha vs Gzira U. 0-0, Zurrieq vs Msida SJ 1-1
- Gozo - Second Division Qala SJ vs SK Victoria W. 2-1, Gharb R. vs Kercem A. 2-3
- There are two new assistant referees on the FIFA list following the withdrawal of JR Attard who is now considered over-age. The new assistant referees are Konrad Borg and Joe Rapa. Therefore Malta has now four referees and eight assistant referees on the FIFA list.
During a meeting of the Council of the MFA, these officials: referees Anton Zammit, Emmanuel R. Zammit, Lorry Sammut and Joe Attard, together with assistant referees Philip Agius, Ronnie Farrugia, James Vella Clark, Gaetano Degabriele, Charles Micallef, Ingmar Spiteri, Konrad Borg and Joe Rapa, were presented with the FIFA badge.
- The MFA Protests' Board has rejected a protest by Naxxar Lions FC against the result of last Sunday's Premier League match against Hamrun Spartans. Therefore the 2-1 win for Hamrun Spartans has been confirmed. Naxxar were basing the protest on the head-butting incident which occurred on the 70th minute and which was left unsanctioned.
- The Malta Football Association rejected a request by Sliema Wanderers to stage the Premier League match Naxxar Lions vs Sliema Wanderers at the National Stadium rather than the Hibernians Ground.
Sliema had protested that they were being penalised by having to play more matches outside the National Stadium than Birkirkara and Valletta. The association had to move the game to the Hibernians Ground due to security measures in order to have the match between Birkirkara and Marsa played at the National Stadium.
- Birkirkara defender Michael Spiteri has renewed his contract with the Stripes by another yeat till the end of June 2003. The international defender was due to quit football this season. However after being ruled out for the rest of the season due to an injury in the cruciate ligament, Spiteri decided to postpone his retirement. Last week, Michael Spiteri underwent a surgery in Germany successfully.
- The Malta Football Association has cautioned a number of clubs which owe money to players and other clubs. Birkirkara owe Andy Eminyan, who now plays for Lija Athletic, Lm315; Birkirkara owe Nenad Veselji Lm 825 while Floriana still have to pay four months' salary to former coach Karim Bencheriffa. Valletta have to make a payment of Lm2,000 to Stefan Giglio. Three clubs still have to settle payments to other clubs as part of transfer fees. Birkirkara have to pay the remaining part of the Nenad Veselji transfer from Valletta and Sliema the remaining part of the Carlo Mamo transfer from Tarxien. Hamrun Spartans owe Hibernians part of the transfer fees of Stefan Sultana and Darren Attard.
- Third Division B'Bugia SP vs Zejtun C. 3-1, Vittoriosa S. vs Sta. Lucia 2-0
- Sliema Wanderers striker Orosco Anonam will be leaving Malta next Monday for a trial with French First Division side AJ Auxerre. The French side is currently third in the table with 33 points, eleven points behind leaders RC Lens but with two games in hand. Olympique Lyonnais are second with 36 points. This trial is the result of contacts established by the same agent who took him to Vasas SC in Hungary earlier this year. Anonam is also attracting the interest of a club from Croatia and another from China.
Anonam arrived in Malta in 1998 from Nigerian side Katrina University. He played for two years with Naxxar before moving to Sliema Wanderers on a one-year loan where he had an impressive season playing next to Michael Mifsud. He managed to score 22 goals in 26 league matches. This summer, he moved to Hungarian First Division side Vasas Budapest. However he had to return back Malta when the club went bankrupt. On his arrival, he became once again a Naxxar player but was transferred to Sliema although he was very close to joining Birkirkara.
Meanwhile Orosco Anonam is at the centre of a legal dispute. The player's agents Trans-Afrique Sports International Ltd, represented in Malta by Chevalier Damian Iwueke, are claiming that the player was transferred from Naxxar Lions to Sliema Wanderers without being consulted and are demanding a percentage of the transfer fee which is believed to have been of around Lm20,000.
A law suit has been filed in the Law Courts and was due to start being heard on Wednesday by Mr Justice Geoffrey Valenzia. However following a request by Iwueke, the case has been postponed as the latter is trying to discuss the matter with Naxxar Lions president Michael Zammit Tabona in order to reach an out-of-court settlement.
- Malta retained the 131st place in the FIFA World Rankings as published on Wednesday. Ahead of Malta lie countries like India, Madagascar, Fiji, Mauritius, Burundi, St. Vincent/Grenadines, Tahiti, Mozambique, St Kitts & Nevis and St Lucia. Among the other European countries, Azerbaijan (113rd) and the Faroe Islands (118th) are ahead of Malta while Andorra (143rd), Luxemburg (145th), Liechtenstein (152nd) and San Marino (158th) are behind.
Malta is scheduled to play three matches in February during the Rothmans International Tournament. Two of the countries taking part should be Moldova and Jordan. The third team has not been confirmed yet.
- Following an appeal by Valletta FC, Darren Debono's six-match ban was reduced to four. On the other hand, the appeal to have John Buttigieg's four-match suspension reduced was rejected.
Meanwhile Naxxar Lions midfielders Joseph Sant Fournier and Victor Bellia were the only players from the Premier League to be suspended this week. Both players were suspended for one game after collecting a fourth yellow card in their last league game against Hamrun Spartans on Sunday. Sant Fournier and Bellia will miss the next league match against Sliema Wanderers on Sunday.
- Malta international and CSKA Sofia midfielder Stefan Giglio has turned to the Malta Football Association as he claims Valletta owe him Lm6,000. This request will be discussed by the Council of the Malta Football Association and if found guilty, a transfer-prohibition will be imposed on the club. The association had earlier ordered the club to make the payment in three instalments.
Valletta president Joe Caruana Curran claims that according to the MFA ruling, for the time being they owe Giglio just Lm2,000. Stefan Giglio is currently ruled out through injury.
- Naxxar Lions striker Daniel Bogdanovic was voted Rothmans Player of the Month for December 2001. The 21 years old Yugoslav striker, who also holds Maltese citizenship, was a key player for Naxxar over the past weeks and is proving to be one of the most in-form strikers in the Premier League. He has scored seven goals in ten league matches. Among the clubs he played with before joining Naxxar, are Esperance Sportive Tunis in Tunisia, Sliema Wanderers and Vasas Budapest in Hungary earlier this season. With Esperance Sportive in Tunisia, Bogdanovic managed to win three National League titles. He considers one of the highest point in his career, a memorable goal for Vasas Budapest this season in a friendly game against French side Olympique Lyon which ended in a 2-2 draw. His main ambitions are to play abroad and to play for the National Team. In past he formed part of Malta's Under 21 squad. Other interests and hobbies include playing at the Playstation and other sports like tennis, basketball and golf.
- The Malta Football Association announced a change of fixtures for the end of the week in the Rothmans Premier League. The match between Birkirkara and Marsa, originally scheduled to be played at the Hibs Ground on Sunday has been anticipated to Saturday. The match will be played at the National Stadium at 16:00. Naxxar Lions vs Sliema Wanderers which was due to be played on Saturday has now been postponed to Sunday at 15:00 at the Hibernians Ground.
- Naxxar Lions have filed a protest against the result of the result of Sunday's Premier League match against Hamrun Spartans. Naxxar are basing the protest on the head-butting incident which occurred on the seventieth minute and which was left unsanctioned.
Following a clearance by the Naxxar defence, Maltese-Australian midfielder Matthew Galea head-butted Naxxar player-coach Edmond Lufi in an off-the-ball situation. Assistant referee James Vella Clark signalled the incident but apparently did not identify the player. Referee Chris Lautier consulted the
other assistant referee and the fourth official and at one point, it seemed that Hamrun striker Nikolai Kirilov was going to receive the red card. However no one among the match officials was sure who the culprit was. The referee opted not to caution any player and play resumed with a drop-ball among the harsh protests of the Naxxar players. To add insult to injury, it was the same Matthew Galea who scored the important goal that gave Hamrun a 2-1 win seven minutes from time.
Naxxar are claiming that this technical error by the referee influenced the result of the game. They are demanding that the match will be declared null and the game is played once again.
- Malta international striker Gilbert Agius will be returning back and will sign for Valletta FC early next week making him eligible to play for the Citizens in the match against Sliema Wanderers. Negotiations between Pisa and Valletta took place during the week and these were concluded successfully as they reached an agreement over the remaining payments which were due to be made by Pisa.
- Sliema Wanderers goalkeeper Murphy Akanji played the whole second half for Nigeria in a friendly match against the Ivory Coast in Bouake. The two teams shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw with the hosts taking the lead in the first half and the Super Eagles equalizing in the second half.
Meanwhile Nigeria coach Shuaibu Amodu has at last announced his African Nations Cup squad. All the big Nigerian names will be present in Mali and their were no surprise invitations either. The squad is made up of 15 members who played in the last Nations Cup. There is only one player who is based in Nigeria.
The Nigerian squad in made up of:
Goalkeepers: Murphy Akanji (Sliema Wanderers), Ndubuisi Egbo (Moroka Swallows/SAF), Ike Shorunmu (no club).
Defenders: Celestine Babayaro (Chelsea/ENG), Justice Christopher (Antwerp/BEL), Eric Ejiofor (Maccabi Haifa/ISR), Emeka Ifejiagwa (Wolfsburg/GER), Isaac Okoronkwo (Shakhtar Donetsk/UKR), Ifeanyi Udeze (Salonika/GRE), Taribo West (Kaiserslautern/GER), Joseph Yobo (Marseille/FRA). Midfielders: Finidi George (Ipswich/ENG), Garba Lawal (Roda JC Kerkrade/HOL), Pascal Karibe Ojigwe (Leverkusen/GER), Austin Okocha (Paris St Germain/FRA), Sunday Oliseh (Borussia Dortmund/GER). Strikers: Victor Agali (Schalke/GER), Julius Agahowa (Shakhtar Donetsk/UKR) Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Maccabi Haifa/ISR), Tijani Babanjida (Vitesse Arnhem/HOL), Victor Ikpeba (Real Betis/SPA), Nwankwo Kanu (Arsenal/ENG).
- Premier League Hamrun S. vs Naxxar L. 2-1, Pietà H. vs Valletta 1-1
- First Division St. Patrick vs Mosta 0-3, Mqabba vs Rabat A. 3-2
- Second Division Dingli S. vs Attard 5-3, Tarxien R. vs Luqa SA 2-1
- Third Division Fgura U. vs Sirens 0-2, Gharghur vs Siggiewi 2-5
- Women's League Melita vs Mosta 1-5, Raiders vs Birkirkara 0-2
- Gozo - First Division Xewkija T. vs Sannat L. 3-3, Oratory Y. vs Victoria H. 2-2
- Premier League Hibernians vs Floriana 2-1, Sliema W. vs Birkirkara 1-1
- Second Division Senglea A. vs Melita 2-1, Zebbug R. vs Sta. Venera L. 1-1
- Gozo - Second Division Kercem A. vs Qala SJ 1-5, St. Lawrence S. vs Xaghra U. 0-2
- Malta international striker Gilbert Agius will be returning back with Valletta FC. Negotiations between Pisa and Valletta are at an advanced stage and the player is expected to arrive in Malta early next week to sign for the Citizens.
The five-month stay in Tuscany turned out to be a nightmare for Gilbert Agius especially following the arrival of new coach Corrado Benedetti. In fact, Agius made only four short appearances in league matches, 125 minutes in all, despite playing very well in friendly matches and in a match from the Coppa Italia di Serie C.
The return of Gilbert Agius will definitely be a big boost for the Citizens' chances in the Premier League and the remaining competitions. Although clubs only had till the end of the year to sign new players, Agius can sign for Valletta since players who are returning from a loan period with a foreign club are eligible to register for a club.
Agius had joined the Italian Serie C1 side in July on a one-year loan.
- Malta Under 21 coach Ray 'Zazu' Farrugia was voted 'Official of the Year' in the contest which awards the best sportsmen, sportswomen and officials, the Konkors Sportivi Nazzjonali 2001. The final results were announced during a variety programme which was held at the Radisson Bay Point Resort on Saturday.
This year, the Ghaqda Kittieba Sport, the Sportswriters' Association was the sole organiser of the contest after reaching an agreement with former partners, the Malta Olympic Committee.
Ray Farrugia obtained the highest number of votes in the 'Official of the Year' award. Malta Football Rugby Union president Kevin Buttigieg was the runner-up. The other finalists for this award were Robert Ebejer (president of the Aquatic Sports Association of Malta), Noel Gauci (secretary of the Malta Darts Association) and Anthony Chircop (president of the Malta Amateur Athletic Association).
In the Sportsman of the Year award, Gilbert Agius placed fourth behind the winner Stefan Farrugia (bowls), runner-up William Chetcuti (shooting) and third-placed Philip Busuttil (shooting). The other finalist for this award was Paul Mifsud (billiards).
In the Team of the Year award, Valletta Football Club were voted as runner-ups. The winner of the award was the Strait Dealer crew which took part in the Middle Sea Race. The other finalists were the men's national team in darts, the women's national team in squash and the women's relay team 4x100m in athletics.
- Premier League Marsa vs Lija A. 5-1
- Valletta have lodged an appeal regarding the long suspensions imposed on defenders Darren Debono and John Buttigieg. After that John Buttigieg was given a four-match suspension following a red card in the Super 5 Cup final, on Wednesday, Darren Debono was handed a hefty six-match ban after being sent off in Saturday's Premier League match against Hibernians. Besides Debono, another Valletta player, Ivan Zammit, was suspended for one match by the MFA Disciplinary Commissioner after collecting a fourth yellow card.
- Floriana goalkeeper Justin Haber left Malta on Tuesday to join German Third Division side KFC Uerdingen 05 for a one-week trial. The 20-year old Under 21 national goalkeeper was given the opportunity to join the former Bundesliga side (known as Bayer Uerdingen) for a trial as the club's regular goalkeeper is ruled out due to injury. The deadline for transfers in Germany is January 15. Before leaving Malta, Haber signed an agreement with Floriana which binds him to be back in Malta in eight days. Last season, Haber joined Bulgarian side SK Dobrudzha but problems to obtain a work-permit made it impossible for him to play with the club in league matches. Earlier this season, he went for another trial with another Bulgarian side, Botev Plovdiv.
- Sliema Wanderers have denied reports that goalkeeper Murphy Akanji will be travelling back to Malta for Saturday's big clash at the top of the Premier League table against Birkirkara.
- Valletta defender Darren Debono was handed a hefty six-match ban after being sent off in Saturday's Premier League match against Hibernians. Debono was sent off after receiving a second yellow card for protests when Hibs were awarded a penalty on the 60th minute. His fierce reaction was mainly the result of the incident in which he was shown the first yellow card which was rather controversial. This six-match suspension means that Debono will miss the matches against Pietà Hotspurs, Hamrun Spartans, Sliema Wanderers, Naxxar Lions, Birkirkara and the first match from the Championship Pool. Besides Debono, another Valletta player, Ivan Zammit, was suspended for one match after collecting a fourth yellow card.
Last week, another Valletta defender, John Buttigieg was suspended for four matches for similar behaviour.
- Horst Heese's decision to bar Hamrun Spartans midfielder Mauro Brincat from joining the Under 21 squad could have more repercussions in the coming days.
A couple of weeks ago, Ray 'Zazu' Farrugia, Malta's Under 21 coach had invited Mauro Brincat and Roderick Farrugia of Lija Athletic to join the squad as he is trying to build his team once again after losing no fewer than 14 players from the previous squad due to age restrictions. However the call-up of the Mauro Brincat to the U-21 squad has failed to receive the approval of Horst Heese, the MFA technical director. Heese insists that since Brincat is still 17 years old, he has to form part of the Under 19 squad. Otherwise the player could suffer from a burn-out.
In his first season in the Premier League, Mauro Brincat was immediately a hit for Hamrun Spartans, being voted Rothmans Player of the Match on three occasions.
When Mauro Brincat received the invitation to join the Under 21 squad, he contacted Ray Farrugia in order to ask him when he was due to start training. However the Under 21 coach informed him that there were some problems regarding his selection.
maltafootball.com came to know that Ray Farrugia was extremely disappointed as he came to know about this decision. The feeling is that the technical director is denying Farrugia the possibility of having the best players at his disposal as he considers him one of the most brightest prospects who could prove to be an asset for the team. This decision could also lead to further repercussions even on Farrugia's job as Under 21 national coach. This summer, although he was interested in taking the job as national team coach, the MFA preferred appointing a foreign coach, Sigi Held, to replace Josif Ilic.
It is interesting to point out that several players started their career in the Under 21 or senior national team at such an early age. For example, Michael Mifsud first formed part of the Under 21 squad at the age of 16 and at the age of 19, he made his first appearance in the senior side. When Horst Heese was national team coach, back in 1988, he utilised a number of players who were still in their teens. Among these was a certain 18-year old, Joe Brincat, uncle of Mauro.
- No Maltese official was included when the FIFA Referees’ Committee named the 36 referees and 36 assistant referees for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, following a meeting in Zurich.
Local assistant referee Philip Agius was tipped as one of the officials who could have made it to the World Cup finals after that UEFA appointed him as one of the officials for two matches from the UEFA Champions League group stage this season.
Assistant referee Emmanuel Zammit represented Malta quite successfully in the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France and two years later, he was also named as one of the officials for the European Championships EURO2000 in Belgium and Holland.
- Gozitan side Nadur Youngsters secured the services of two foreigners coming from Premier League clubs in their bid to regain the GFA First Division title after two years. After signing former Marsa striker Anthony Evi Parker late last week, Nadur will be signing Czech striker Pavel Mraz. Mraz was released by Valletta just two days before the MFA's final deadline for clubs to sign new players making it impossible for him to move to another Premier or First Division club. Therefore Gozo was the only option for Mraz, who also played for Sliema Wanderers and Hibernians, before joining the Citizens.
Last week, Nadur managed to sign Anthony Evi Parker who started this season with Premier League side Marsa. After an impressive start with the Red-Blues, the 17-year old striker was reported to be joining the Primavera (Youths) of Italian Serie A side Chievo Verona. However problems to obtain a visa made it impossible for him to move to Italy. Evi Parker already made a first appearance for the Youngsters in a match from the Gozo FA Under 21 League when he scored two goals against Sannat.
Nadur Youngsters are currently second in the table behind leaders Ghajnsielem after losing to the same team 1-0 last week.
- Sliema Wanderers and Nigeria's national goalkeeper Murphy Akanji hit back at critics of Nigeria's first choice goalkeeper Ike Shorunmu who is being accused of loss of form arising from the fact that he is clubless. In a report appearing in the Nigerian media, Akanji spoke in defence of his team mate saying that the Eagles' first choice goalie lost his place at Turkish club Besiktas following his commitment to national call and should be compensated rather than being criticised.
"Ike is not the only clubless player who was called to camp before. There were many others who had no clubs but made our previous teams to the World Cup. Why should Ike be treated differently? I expect that he should be compensated for all his sacrifices for the national team like others before him," Akanji said. The reporter claims that observers believe that both Shorunmu and Akanji could not b the ideal choices for Nigeria, the former for reasons of clublessness, the latter for "playing in non-footballing nation Malta".
Meanwhile the fact that Nigeria coach Shuaibu Amodu granted permission to Nwankwo Kanu and Celestine Babayaro to join their teammates just a week before the start of the Nations Cup finals, due to commitments with Arsenal and Chelsea respectively, and Augustine Okocha of Paris St Germain to stay a bit longer, prompted Akanji to ask the team management to allow him join Sliema for next Saturday's clash at the top of the Premier League table against Birkirkara. All players were due to join the squad by last Saturday. The team is due to travel to Cairo on Monday for a friendly international match with Egypt. They are also scheduled to play against the Ivory Coast on January 12 in Abidjan on their way to Mali. The African Nations Cup kicks off on January 19.
- Premier League Floriana vs Marsa 2-2, Birkirkara vs Lija A. 3-0
- First Division Gozo vs Qormi 1-1, Marsaxlokk vs St. Andrews 3-1, Balzan Y. vs Xghajra T. 2-1
- Second Division Gzira U. vs Zurrieq 2-1, Attard vs Mellieha 0-0
- Third Division Pembroke A. vs St. George's 1-3, Mgarr U. vs San Gwann 0-8
- Women's League Birkirkara vs Hibernians 0-3, Rabat A. vs Raiders 0-4
- Gozo - Second Division SK Victoria W. vs Xaghra U. 4-1
- Premier League Sliema W. vs Hamrun S. 3-2, Valletta vs Hibernians 2-2
- Second Division Msida SJ vs Tarxien R. 2-0, Sta. Venera L. vs Dingli S. 3-1
- Gozo - Second Division St. Lawrence S. vs Gharb R. 2-1
- Valletta defender John Buttigieg was handed a hefty four-match ban by the MFA Disciplinary Commissioner after being sent off in the Super 5 Cup final against Sliema on Saturday. This means that Buttigieg will be unavailable for Valletta in the next four league matches. Besides the usual one match suspension for a red card, Buttigieg was suspended for another three matches following his behaviour as he was leaving the pitch. The veteran defender will now miss the games against Hibernians, Pietà, Hamrun and Sliema.
Another two Valletta players, Kris Laferla and Beppe Pace, who also saw red on Saturday, were suspended for one match. This means that Valletta will be lacking five suspended players when they meet Hibernians as Rennie Forace and Kamil Dvorak were earlier handed a one-match ban.
- Premier League Naxxar L. vs Pietà H. 2-0
- The MFA Protests Board turned down a request by Pietà Hotspurs to order a replay following a technical error by the referee in the match against Sliema Wanderers. The Hotspurs had filed a protest as they alleged that referee Marco Borg committed a technical error when he sent off Welsh midfielder Paul Seaman on 50 minutes for a second yellow card. They claimed the yellow card was not the second one for Seaman and that the referee had mixed up Seaman with Bulgarian defender Metodi Metodiev who had received a yellow card after 19 minutes. However on the official match report, the referee wrote that Seaman, rather than Metodiev, had received a yellow card on the 19th minute.
Pietà Hotspurs were demanding that the game had to be declared null and that a replay should be staged. The result of this protest means that Paul Seaman will be suspended for Friday's game against Naxxar Lions.
- Champions Valletta FC have released Czech midfielder Pavel Mraz and signed Nigerian striker Maczerob Okoro in time before the end-of-the-year transfer deadline. The decision to release Mraz was taken after Valletta's 1-4 defeat in the Super 5 Cup final on Saturday. Mraz had joined Valletta in 1998 but in January 1999, he was suspended for one year by UEFA. Over these three years, Pavel Mraz played an important role in the team and was one of the team's key players which won all the honours at stake last season.
But before signing Okoro, they needed to have the ban on transfers lifted by the Malta Football Association. Valletta were given the prohibition as they still owe money to Yugoslav striker Nenad Veselji, who now plays for Sliema. Maczerob Okoro, who will therefore become the second Nigerian striker for Valletta besides Chris Oretan, has been training with the Citizens for the past six weeks after joining them for a trial. His performance in training has impressed the club's officials who have now decided to offer him a six-month contract which should be renewed at the end of the season. Before coming to Malta, Okoro played in the Nigerian League, except for a short spell in South Africa.
- Premier sides Marsa and Naxxar Lions managed to strengthen their sides with the signing of new players just before Monday's final deadline for the registration of new players. Marsa's third foreigner will be Nigerian midfielder Minabo Asechemie. Asechemie has already played a couple of matches with the Red-Blues in November. However he was then released as Marsa were hoping to sign another foreigner. In Nigeria, he was the captain of Premier side Sharks FC where he was also the captain. Besides playing for other top Nigerian clubs, Asechemie also played for Asec FC of Ivory Coast and took part with them in the African Champions Cup. Other signings were those of goalkeeper Simon Giordmaina who joins the club from Sliema Wanderers after he was due to join Hamrun earlier this season, Josef Farrugia from Sta. Venera Lightenings and Jonathan Buttigieg from Marsaxlokk. With these four signings, Marsa have signed in all 20 new players since August.
Naxxar Lions secured the services of Libyan striker Farhat Abdel Moutalib. Moutalib, who holds Maltese citizenship, played in Gozo for the past years. He played for St. Lawrence Spurs, SK Victoria Wanderers and Sannat Lions.
Former Birkirkara midfielder Simon Sammut, who had joined Msida St. Joseph in Division 2 this season has now moved to First Division side Mqabba while Mustapha El Khiate, a former Gozo FC player, joins Msida. Mark Piccinino joins Attard from Luqa.