As the game of football continues to modernise itself, clubs around the world are seeking new methods to have an edge over their competitors in any aspect of that the Beautiful Game provides.
This ongoing 2022 World Cup edition in Qatar is a reflection of how the game has progressed across all continents, with nations like Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran showing that football has no stereotypes and whenever there is a structure in place, positive results can follow.
Malta is one of the countries that has started to gain more respect at international level following the strong showings put on display in the European qualifiers and the Nations League.
Delving deep into the Maltese game, the local clubs are also thriving in the European competitions with Ħamrun Spartans making history after reaching the UEFA Conference League play-offs as well.
However, progress and development are not measured only in results on the field, but also in other capacities.
Swieqi United, who are currently playing their football in the BOV Challenge League, is an ambitious club that has embarked on several innovative projects which will expose its brand and values across the world.
One of these projects is a collaboration with Nigeria’s Ilaji FC, with whom Swieqi have close ties as they look to stamp their brand and technical philosophy outside local shores.
A partnership which was forged in 2019 between two clubs that embrace similar ideas.
Ilaji FC started in 2018 and in a short span of time have already established themselves as one of the best academies in Nigeria.
Bolu Ogungbayi, a 2004-born Nigerian player, is one of their earliest graduates and who is tipped for a bright future – after being a clinical scorer in Nigeria’s third-tier, he is now on the books of Slavia Prague’s U-19 side.
“We share the same idea which is developing football within the community,” Chief Engineer Dotun Sanusi, Swieqi FC’s ambassador for Nigeria, told the Times of Malta.
Sanusi, who is the owner of Ilaji Football Academy, explained how their idea is to gather the raw talents in Nigeria, nurture them in the best way possible before getting contracts in European football.
Ilaji have already other partnerships with clubs from Czechia, Norway, Finland and Germany to name a few.
Swieqi United is another club on their books with whom they are confident that their project can be a win-win situation for both parties.
For Swieqi, this is an opportunity to tap into the Nigerian market to bring talented players into their ranks.
A couple of players have already made the move in Abdullah Busari and Temitope Ojo Abraham, with the latter plying his trade at Pietà Hotspurs in the Premier League this season.
Sanusi explained that their modern facilities, which include a school, hotel rooms, gym and football pitches, allow their pupils to hone their football skills in a professional manner.
For him, the next step for these players to have a chance of playing in the Old Continent is to have them enhance their knowledge about how the game is played in Europe.
This is where Swieqi United’s role come into play as their collaboration idea is to help Ilaji FC’s players to learn football the European way, according to Swieqi’s philosophy.
The Maltese side are fully committed in reaping the fruits from this partnership, having also organised a coaching seminar in Nigeria earlier this year.
Swieqi United’s Technical Director Billy Mock and Marko Glumac, Academy Head Coach, took centre stage in this workshop which was attended by Ilaji FC coaches and guests.
Completing this seminar was a two-day player camp under the observation of the Swieqi United coaching duo.
At Ilaji FC Academy, the students are also pursuing their academic studies and once secondary school is completed, that is where Malta’s opportunity arises.
Through Swieqi United’s partnership, these players would have the possibility to combine their football career in Malta while pursuing sixth form studies at any institution.
Such an opportunity makes Swieqi United an even more appetible option for the players who are willing to embark on such a life-changing journey.
Another benefit from this partnership is sports tourism in both Malta and Nigeria.
Swieqi’s solid connections across Europe have allowed them to invite a giant club like Manchester United to a youth tournament last season. They have managed to repeat a similar feat this year, having brought Serie A side Torino and Portuguese giants Sporting CP to the KHS U-12’s cup.
One of the pillar projects in Swieqi United’s vision is to organise a similar tournament both in Malta and in Europe where European teams would rub shoulders with African representatives.
This would be an opportunity for Swieqi to continue to expose its brand, values and methodology while representing Maltese football in a way that no other club has done so far.
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