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Valletta Malta, Sirens to compete in Challenger Cup

ASA president Karl Izzo (right) addressing the media. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The Aquatic Sports Association of Malta will step up its drive to boost the development of its national teams in the coming weeks with participation in a number of prestigious competitions.

The men’s national team, under the charge of Milan Cirovic, will be competing in the LEN Challenger Cup, under the name of Valletta Malta, this week as part of their preparations for the European Championship finals early next year.

Coach Milan Cirovic has been preparing his squad for the past three weeks for this week’s tournament which gets underway on Thursday.

Valletta Malta will be facing some tough opposition in the form of Turkish side ENKA Istanbul as well as EVK Zaibas, of Lithuania, KV Komodor, of Bulgaria, and Finland’s Cetus Espoo.

Added to that, Malta women’s champions Sirens will also be competing in the same tournament as Aurelien Cousin’s girls were drawn to face Clube Fluvial Portuense, of Portugal, Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade, Britain’s Otter Swimming Club and KVT Lokomotiv-N. Nanov, of Bulgaria.

This qualifying tournament will be played in the Bulgarian city of Blagoevgrad this week with the top two teams qualifying for the Top 6 phase.

“These tournaments are an important process in the development for both selections,” ASA president Karl Izzo told a news conference.

“For the men’s national team, this tournament is part of their preparations for the 2024 European Championship finals that are scheduled to be held in January in Israel, but given the current situation are unlikely to be held there.

“We are currently awaiting information from LEN on where these championships will be held so that we can finalise the preparations of our national team.”

The ASA president announced on Tuesday that the local governing body is set to host a blockbuster tournament ahead of their departure for the European Championship in December.

“We are planning to host the Malta Waterpolo Christmas Cup at the Cottonera Sports Complex in December that is set to bring to our islands some of the world’s best talent in this sport,” Izzo said.

“In fact, the tournament will see the participation of some powerhouses in the sport such as Serbia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Italy, and France. The tournament will be a great warm-up event for our national team ahead of the European Championship finals.”

Izzo said that ASA is continuing to work hard to provide the best development process to the young players and to this end this season, they are planning to organise a waterpolo festival for U-12 boys and Under 16 girls.

“We believe it’s time to focus on players’ development so we continue to raise the level of play on our islands,” Izzo said.

“Added to that we will also organise youth leagues during the winter months in the U-14, U-16, U-18, and U-20 boys’ age groups as well as the Senior Women’s Winter League. Most of these competitions will start in November and will be played at the Cottonera Sports Complex. In all, we will have 328 matches.”

World events

The ASA president also announced that the local governing body of aquatic sport has been entrusted with the organisation of two other prestigious competitions in 2024.

“We have been informed by LEN that Malta has been assigned the organisation of the European Junior Artistic Swimming Championships as well as the World Aquatics Men’s U-16 Waterpolo World Championships in June next year,” Izzo said.

“This is the first time that our country has been entrusted with the organisation of such tournaments. The artistic swimming championships will attract athletes from 15 countries and will be held at the Cottonera Sports Complex.

“On the other hand, the U-16 World Championships will bring over here 32 teams, with each contingent composed of 20 persons apart from the hundreds of parents travelling for the event.

“The ASA has appointed an Organising Committee, spearheaded by ASA secretary Rita Azzopardi, that will handle the organisation of these prestigious events.”

Izzo said that the U-16 team, under the charge of coach Jonathan Valletta and his assistant Ryan Coleiro, will compete in the U-18 League as part of their preparation for the tournament.

Meanwhile, the ASA at the end of this month will be organising the Enemed Cup that will see the participation of eight teams.

Izzo thanked Enemed Executive chairman Kevin Chircop for his constant support of the sport and said that this competition has always served as a great platform for our young players.

The ASA, in conjunction with the World Aquatics, will be organising a Development Referee Course that will be held on October 27 and 28 at the University of Malta.

So far, there have been 18 applicants for this course that will be conducted by Italian referee Massimiliano Caputi and will also discuss the latest regulatory changes that have been introduced in the game by the world body.

Added to that the ASA, in collaboration with the governing body’s Education Development Committee, have decided to set up a coaching system that will guarantee a professional approach.

To this end, the local coaches will have to undergo a number of courses that will provide specific training that will enable them to attain the required licences and qualifications needed

The ASA has embarked on a collaboration with the Institute for Swimming in the UK that will offer these courses to the Maltese coaches.

An agreement was also signed with the Royal Life Saving Society which will provide courses on first-aid and life saving.

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