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MBA Shield to be renamed for legendary coach John Tabone

Paul Sultana reconfirmed as MBA president

The MBA Shield will take on a new name in the coming season as the Malta Basketball Association (MBA) announced that it will be now called the John Tabone Shield in memory of the legendary former player and coach who passed away last year.

The proposal to rename the trophy most recently won by Division One champions Starlites FIJO was put forward by MBA president Paul Sultana and endorsed at the association’s Annual General Meeting held on Thursday.

“John Tabone has made an indelible contribution to Maltese basketball, dedicating his life to our sport in a remarkable career spanning five decades,” Sultana said.

“The MBA Shield will now be named after John in recognition of his extraordinary service to the game.”

Tabone is synonymous with Division One side Luxol as he was not only influential in the foundation of this club but also enjoyed a stellar spell at the club, winning several titles both as a player and as a coach.

As a coach, Tabone managed to win five consecutive honours between 2007 and 2009, a feat which he described as ‘his proudest moment’.

He was also the Malta coach that in 1985 steered the men’s national team to a bronze medal at the Games of the Small States in Europe in San Marino – the country’s first medal at the Games – and repeating the feat two years later.

The association’s AGM brought to light the Shield’s format which had been trialled in a different way last season.

The competition followed a locally-adopted version of the Elam Ending where each game would end at the 75-point mark.

Ahead of last season, clubs had voted in favour of the format to get a more varied season.

Import player rule change

However, it seems to have brought with it general criticism from the same clubs and is set to be scrapped with the previous version to make its way back.

“The format for the John Tabone Shield will revert to its original format as we’ve seen that last season’s format just didn’t work,” Sultana told the Times of Malta.

Local clubs will have an added benefit – and possibly an incentive to push for longer contracts – as from this coming season, locally-based foreign players who have been playing in Malta for the past three years will now be considered local players.

The rule change had been voted on last year and will now come into play as of the new season.

Added to this is the possibility of having a new team among the existing local clubs as the association awaits the registration of clubs for the coming season.

Sultana also mentioned the fact that there has been interest from parties overseas towards creating a team in Malta.

However, he specified that there is nothing confirmed as yet and that the latter faces a deadline until the end of July to register officially.

These changes come as the MBA confirmed its administration ahead of the season with Sultana staying on as the association’s supremo ahead of next year’s presidential and general secretary elections. Joseph Muscat will continue as the General Secretary and Melvin Gauci retains his position as treasurer.

Ray Mercieca was voted the new deputy president in an election together with the Association’s directors Abigail Gauci, Carolyn Seychell, Bernard Vassallo, and Elton Sant.

High up on the agenda will be the long-standing issue of a lack of officials.

The MBA had already initiated a programme that instructed Under-16 players to be able to officiate.

However, Sultana believes it is a problem that is troubling the association, and “something needs to be done about it this year”.

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