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‘This is a new era for Maltese waterpolo’ says Cirovic ahead of Euro qualifiers

The ASA and National Team coaches spoke to the press on Tuesday ahead of this week's European qualifiers. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Bright future for Malta’s women

The Malta men’s and women’s waterpolo teams will be facing their next big test this weekend when they fight for a spot in the LEN European Qualifiers.

While the men battle it out for a fifth qualification at the National Pool, the women fly out to Bulgaria to try for a first-ever qualification.

Speaking to a press conference ahead of the competition, where Malta will play Ukraine, Germany, and Bulgaria, men’s coach Milan Cirovic called his team ‘the best Malta team at the moment’.

“We didn’t have a long preparation and much time to train. I chose the team from the sessions we had in May and the summer league as well as some past games and competitions that we had already,” Cirovic said.

“We are expecting a difficult tournament. Germany have been together for one month already preparing for this and the World Cup. We played Ukraine in Romania so we know them well and I think we are better than them.

“About Bulgaria we don’t know so much but we are playing them in the last game, so we have two games to analyse them.

“We expect to qualify because Malta has the potential and with the foreign players back in the championship, the level of the league has increased, and Maltese players are one step higher when compared to the Winter League.”

Asked about the importance of Malta’s opening fixture against Ukraine on Friday (start: 19.45), Cirovic said it will be vital, since only the first-place teams and the best three second-placed sides from the four groups qualify, therefore meaning that goal difference will then come into play.

“Every game will be important in the tournament and we, of course, are starting step by step – the most important at this moment is Ukraine. If we don’t win against Ukraine, our chances won’t be good. As I said, I believe we are better than them, but we must show this in the pool,” he said.

The Montenegrin made a statement of intent with the announcement of his new captain – Jake Tanti – signalling a change in philosophy from the past administration.

“I wanted to introduce Jake Tanti as the new captain as a way of signalling a new era of waterpolo in Malta,” he explained.

“Jake Tanti was the best player last season, he’s a very talented goalkeeper not only for the Maltese level but also the European level. He’s very polite and educated and I think this is the best moment to introduce him as the new captain. As long as I’m here he will be the captain. I have full trust in him and so, it was not a difficult decision.”

Good chemistry

The women’s team will have an added challenge on their hands apart from being away from home, as coach Aurelien Cousin’s side plays twice in a row, against host country Bulgaria and Slovakia the following day, before the other two teams face off for a final standing.

Cousin told the press conference he too is happy with his choice of players.

“All the girls chosen are the ones I believe can help Malta to qualify this week. My job as coach is to make that choice and I have no problem with the one I’ve made because I believe in these girls,” he said.

“We’ve been training for the past month and the girls are ready and looking forward because they believe that in five days we can qualify for Israel.

“The group is of the same level so they will be tough games, but I won’t expect any game to have a very high score. Now it’s up to us   We are ready for it and hopefully, when we come back on Sunday, we’ll have good news.”

Asked about the tough task of building chemistry for a national team which will be fighting for its first qualification, Cousin admitted that getting his players together earlier was the best way to go.

“I gave in the list 15 days ago as I wanted the girls to be able to train together at least 15 days before,” the Frenchman said.

“Apart from this, the girls here have been playing against each other for the past competitions. We do have new ones coming but now after 15 days together, the chemistry is much, much better.

“It’s not easy to build chemistry, especially so close to such an event and we are not like the men – the men have been playing for the past five or six years at a high level while for the girls there have been competitions here and there so, the only way I could start to build was to get them together early.”

This comes coupled with the fact that the average age of Cousin’s team is 21 years old. Aquatic Sports Association (ASA) president Karl Izzo said this shows a bright future.

“The average age for the group is 21 years of age so, apart from them being the best we have right now, we are also looking at a bright future for women’s waterpolo,” Izzo said.

“When I was elected, I wanted to give importance to women’s waterpolo and we have Aurelien and Anna (Goncharenko) totally dedicated. I like the way we’re moving forward.

“My aim is to qualify for the final stage of the European Championships with the women for the first time so we’re hoping to get at least one good result as two out of the three teams will qualify.

“Doing so and qualifying for the fifth time with the men would be a great start to my time in charge.”


Jake Tanti, Ben Plumpton, Jeremy Abela, Nikolai Zammit, Nicholas Bugelli, Jake Bonavia (all San Giljan), Jerome Gabaretta, Liam Galea, Jamie Gambin, Jayden Cutajar, Benji Cachia, Nicholas Grixti (Sliema), Jake Muscat, Alec Fenech, Sam Gialanze (Neptunes).


Kelise Agius, Elaya Montfort, Elisa Amato, Kendra Navarro, Martha Perici Ferrante, Kaia Agius, Denise Micallef, Chloe Amato, Zaira Bartolo (all Sirens), Louise Cachia, Francesca Paolella, Kursty Plumpton (all Sliema), Nadya Azzopardi (San Giljan), Abby Bonello (Exiles).

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