Many young players engage with the Beautiful Game with the dream of plying their trade abroad and representing their own national team.
This 2023-24 campaign has presented these opportunities to young goalkeeper Raisa Costantino.
Born in 2005, Costantino ticked off the first dream on her own agenda during the summer transfer window when she signed for SPD Tharros in the Italian Serie C for her maiden experience outside the Maltese shores.
The national team objective followed suit as she is one of the new faces that coach Manuela Tesse included in her 23-player squad for the decisive UEFA Women’s Nations League games against Moldova and Latvia.
These two matches can see Malta lift themselves into League B as once again a Costantino will be donning the Maltese colours.
Raisa’s mother, Sharon, collected 29 caps with the Malta national team since making her debut back in a prestigious 0-0 draw against Lithuania during the UEFA Women’s Euro 2009 qualifiers, in 2006.
“This call-up means a lot to me since it will be my first ever international window with the senior team,” Raisa Costantino told the Times of Malta.
“I have been working a lot to earn this opportunity, so I am grateful to be given this chance to be part of the team.”
Raisa also added that it is a huge honour to be able to follow in her mother’s footsteps, pointing out that she owes her a lot for helping her hone her goalkeeping skills.
After all, Raisa following her mother’s footsteps is a script already familiar to both. In 2020, Sharon was at Kirkop United when she decided to hang up her gloves following a two-decade career in which she made 333 domestic appearances across eight different clubs.
Taking full responsibility between the sticks was her daughter, then 15, who went on to establish herself as a key player for Kirkop.
Last season, Raisa moved to Hibernians with her mother joining the club as the goalkeepers’ coach and was part of the Paolites’ team that reached the domestic cup final against Swieqi United.
Things took a different turn for Hibernians early on this season as Raisa’s move to Italy was an unexpected sliding door to Sharon’s return as a goalkeeper.
In fact, after Raisa’s replacement goalkeeper – Canadian Zeeraya Jivraj – was injured just after the opening weekend, Sharon had to come out of retirement to defend Hibernians’ goal against the likes of Mġarr United, Swieqi United, and Birkirkara where she rolled back the years with some vintage displays.
Meanwhile, Raisa had already become one of the most crucial players at SPD Tharros having played almost every game in the Italian third-tier so far.
Asked about any improvements in her goalkeeping position so far, Raisa underlined that she is playing with more confidence while her technical staff has been exceptional in helping her to develop her positioning on the field.
“During our training sessions, we work a lot on aerial balls which is a huge Achilles heel in the women’s game for goalkeepers while also focusing a lot on long-kick distribution as well,” she explained.
For Costantino, who has already represented Malta at youth level, playing in the Serie C means she faces important teams like Pro Sesto, Spezia and Roma Calcio Femminile.
“While the training difficulty is similar to Malta, the championship is very tough as every weekend it’s a challenge unlike in the Maltese league where there might be a bit of a gap between some teams.”
A debut trip with the Malta senior team awaits Costantino as she hopes this will be the first of many in her goalkeeper’s career.
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