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Swieqi United president urges change of direction to support youth football development

Swieqi United has been organising several tournaments at grassroots level. Photo: Timmy Cutugno

Dr. Justin Fenech laments lack of support as Swieqi set to host high-profile U-15’s cup.

Swieqi United president Justin Fenech is urging a change of direction by the local football authorities to provide better support to youth development across the Maltese islands.

The list of teams participating in this weekend’s KHS Cup. Photo: Swieqi United

His complaint comes after his club, in collaboration with Knowhowsoccer, was faced with numerous hurdles in organizing the high-profile U-15’s KHS Cup.

The matches were initially scheduled to be played at the Victor Tedesco Stadium, which, instead, will be hosting matches from the BOV Challenge League. 

When faced with this dilemma, they could find no help or assistance in finding alternate grounds and thus the tournament will now be played at the Junior College ground in Msida and the Sta Venera ground.

The tournament, which will host 10 foreign academies together with Maltese club Ħamrun Spartans, will be held between Saturday and Sunday.

Participating in this tournament will be academies from well-known teams such as Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Hull City, Derby County and Bundesliga’s Borussia Monchengladbach.

The other clubs that will travel to Malta for this two-day tournament will be Fusion Football Academy, FC Eindhoven from the Netherlands, B.93 of Denmark and Polish clubs Siodka Polska and Arka Gydnia.

“Our primary aim in organising these events is to provide our local youth players, and teams, the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the best academies across European football,” Swieqi United president Fenech told the Times of Malta.

“Hosting these tournaments is also paramount in promoting Malta as a sports destination which is becoming an important and emerging source of income for our country”.

“However, to attract the best teams across Europe we need to have more and better facilities. We currently face a great lack of facilties and a good number of football grounds are nowhere close to the adequate conditions needed locally let alone when welcoming top academies or senior teams.”

“In organizing this tournament, we could find no help or assistance in finding a football pitch that could host this tournament.”

“Previous KHS Cups were hosted at Victor Tedesco Stadium but this time round, even though Ħamrun Spartans tried, the scheduled BOV Challenge League games could not be moved to help accommodate the tournament.”

“We could find little alternative and we have had to host this tournament at Junior College and Santa Venera. While thanking these venues for this assistance, we need to recognize that Malta is very much in need of urgent investment if we want to raise the level of our youth development.”

“We would like to welcome the participation of more local clubs to these tournaments but it also depends in which venues we host them,” he said.

“For example, our goal for this specific U-15’s cup was to bring in more Maltese teams but due to the change of venue it will be just us – as hosts – and Ħamrun Spartans, who have been a huge supporter of these KHS Cup events in the past year.”

Fenech also added that there has been already several instances when they were not supported whenever there was a clash between their KHS Cup fixtures and any other domestic games which included their own teams as well.

For example, their U-15’s squad this weekend will have to face Żebbuġ Rangers in a Section C U-15’s league match throughout the same tournament.

“If we truly believe in Youth Development, the Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation (IFF) would recognize the value of these tournaments and assist by rescheduling fixtures. It’s common sense. Youth players have more to gain by playing foreign clubs than playing local clubs”.

The Swieqi president is delighted to welcome on board Visit Malta, who are now one of the main sponsors of this event, but pointed out that if they get the support from entities such as the Malta FA, the IFF and other stakeholders, it would be a game changer for the youth football landscape on our shores.

“Imagine our domestic clubs having the opportunity to have a taste of the modus operandi of these foreign academies, imagine our youths having the chance to face the challenge that their foreign counterparts may bring, that would be an important learning curve for their growth,” Fenech added.

“It’s maddening at times, because there is a lot of energy put in by volunteers to make these tournaments are held up to standard and then we don’t get the appropriate support for events that at the end of the day everyone in football can benefit from.”

This event is just the latest from a series of KHS tournaments that the Owls have been organising together with Knowhowsoccer throughout the past year where they brought high-profile academies such as Manchester United, Juventus, Parma, Torino, Sporting Lisbon, PSV Eindhoven and Blackburn Rovers among others.

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