Joe Caruana Curran is determined to take the necessary decisions to put aquatic sport in Malta on a stronger foundation should he secure another term as president during the governing body elections this month.
The ASA chief is facing the challenge of Karl Izzo for the top seat at the aquatic sport governing body during the annual general meeting that will be held on November 29.
Caruana Curran, who has been at the helm of the ASA for the past 12 years, said that he was proud of the progress registered in waterpolo, swimming and artistic swimming in recent years.
“It is clear that during the past 12 years there has been huge progress in aquatic sport,” Caruana Curran said.
“If you look at the number of registered athletes there has been a huge increase throughout all clubs, the number of teams competing in waterpolo competitions have also gone up to 12 while swimming too has developed at an incredible rate.
“This progress is down to our decision to give huge importance to the athletes development in relation to international participation with the result that we made giant strides forward in waterpolo, swimming and artistic swimming – something which we never dreamed of.
“In waterpolo, today we are in a situation where after our historic 14th placing we have set sights on targeting a top-ten placing in future competitions – which is quite a remarkable change in mindset.
“Despite our limitations, everyone within the association was committed in working harder to lift our sport. The clubs, who are key members of our association, are investing more in their set-up bringing foreign coaches not only for their senior team but also in the grassroots sector – and that has made a huge difference.”
Caruana Curran admitted, that in the past years the ASA had focused more on the technical preparation rather than strengthening the administrative part.
“In the past years, we worked hard to move forward from a sporting aspect and may be we gave less importance to the administrative sector,” Caruana Curran said.
“When we invested on the athletes, sometimes we felt that if we took some of the funds to put it in the administrative sector it was like we were doing something wrong. Here at the ASA we are run by volunteers and nobody is on a payroll, contrary to for example to the Malta Football Association.
“It’s not an ideal scenario but we always felt that to pay a secretary or an administrative member was like stealing the money from the athletes – so it was quite a critical decision. To make up for this all the members of the Executive Committee contribute more to try and avoid from taking funds from our athletes.
“For me, if I manage to win another term as president, I will have less pressure on my shoulders to take certain decisions since it’s my last term so it won’t have an effect on a future re-election.
“It would be ideal that when the next term comes to an end in 2025 we will celebrate the association’s centenary since its foundation and it will be ideal to reach that landmark by effecting some changes that won’t effect the development of the sport.”
Caruana Curran said that next year’s GSSE was a very important appointment and his ambition is to see Maltese swimmers break the barrier which has seen them win just one gold medal since the first edition in 1985.
“During the next three years, there are a lot of important competitions, the first major one next year being the Games of the Small States of Europe,” he said.
“We have been preparing our swimmers for several months and the goal is to try and break the barrier which has seen Maltese swimmers win just one gold medal in these Games.
“A lot of work has been done in recent months as the ASA has employed an Australian consultant who has come to Malta three times to help our national coach Delon Dannhauser. We also have a sports scientist from New Zealand who has been preparing an aerobic programme for our swimmers. We are going into a lot of details and we are starting to reap the dividends of this investment so hopefully this can help our swimmers to give a significant contribution to Malta’s medal tally in the Games.”
Caruana Curran said that with the number of pools in Malta set to increase considerably in the next few months, particularly with the unveiling of the swimming complexes in Cottonera and Gozo, the ASA can ease the burden on the National Pool.
“The fact that we are going to have so many pools available is very positive and it will be beneficial for clubs and athletes from all aquatic sport disciplines,” Caruana Curran said.
“At the moment, the artistic swimmers are forced to hold their training sessions in a very small area at the National Pool. More pools will mean that we can ease the burden on the training schedule and will give our artistic swimmers a bigger area where to train and surely help them accelerate their progress.
“Having an Olympic-size pool in Gozo can also be an opportunity to have our swimming national team or even clubs hold training camps there. It would surely be a cheaper alternative than heading abroad and at the same time they would be generating more sports tourism for our economy.
“Added to that when there are European Championship finals held in Malta why we shouldn’t hold one of our groups in Gozo or at the Cottonera Sports Complex. These are important considerations that can see us give something back to who is investing in our sport.”
Caruana Curran said that he hopes that once the Gozo Olympic Pool is unveiled, Gozitan club Otters will be involved in the management of the facility.
“I hope that Otters officials will be given the opportunity to be involved in the management of the Gozo pool so they can feel that it is their home. I know how much dedicated they are and I’m sure they would give a key contribution to keep it a very good level,” Caruana Curran said.
“As regards participating numbers in Gozo, the population numbers are what they are but we have already a request from a Gozitan swimming club to get affiliated with the ASA.
“Our association has to support Gozitan athletes and we will also ensure that our national coaches from all disciplines will make the trip to Gozo to oversee their sport’s development there.”
Caruana Curran said that it was disappointing that the ASA has struggled for financial support in the last few years and appealed to the authorities to introduce some kind of benefits for private companies that are ready to support sports associations.
“For many years, we were lucky to be in a comfortable financial position due to what we received from the authorities and other government entities,” Caruana Curran said.
“Unfortunately, some entities decided to stop their sponsorship, for reasons they only know. Although we are aware of the importance of financial assistance, but it’s no secret that everyone is under pressure, even the government is under a bit of pressure due to the increase of oil and gas prices while transport fees have also gone up.
“This does not mean that sport should be given less importance. I believe that we should find ways to give incentives, particularly to companies in the private sector, to be encouraged to invest in Maltese sport, introducing for example tax benefits.”
Asked what will be his main goal should he win a final term as ASA president, Caruan Curran said: “I just wish that if I am re-elected these three years will be a positive ending to all the work we have conducted at the ASA.
“If at least I will be remembered to have been part of a group of administrators that has injected a winning mentality and that has provided a helping hand in fulfilling unprecedented objectives in our sport that would be of great satisfaction.”
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