Connect with us


Watch: Valletta banking on lion-hearted players as Malta U-16 start campaign at World Championship

Malta U-16 coach Jonathan Valletta. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Maltese youngsters face Kazakhstan in opening match

The Malta U-16 national team are set for their biggest test of their career when they compete in the World Aquatics Men’s U-16 Championship on home soil this week.

The team guided by Jonathan Valletta have a tough task on their hands if they were to reach the knockout stages of the competition, which has attracted the participation of 32 teams, when they were handed a tricky draw.

The Maltese youngsters were drawn in Group D and will be up against tournament favourites Greece, Kazakhstan, and Romania.

Malta will open their campaign against Kazakhstan on Tuesday (start: 7pm) and coach Jonathan Valletta is banking on the fighting qualities of his players to start the campaign with a positive result.

Malta U-16 coach Jonathan Valletta speaks to the Times of Malta ahead of Tuesday’s opener against Kazakstan. Video: Jonathan Borg

“This is going to be another great experience,” Valletta told the Times of Malta.

“Last year, this group of players achieved what we thought was unthinkable when securing tenth place in the European Championship finals. Now a year has passed and we have an even bigger challenge when we take part in the worlds.

“If you look at where our team was when we started last year, there has been significant improvement. I don’t think that I should take credit for that all by myself as the clubs played a key role with their huge investment in foreign coaches who are working not only in the senior set up but also in the academy.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t have the best of preparations as the players are coming from a busy month which has seen them not only play for their respective clubs in senior competitions but had to sit for their MATSEC exams so we had very little time to train together.

“However, one thing that I am heartened of is that when this group of players come together to represent their country they have always shown great unity and resilience in water and battle with their pride to bring the best possible result for their country. I am sure this week will be more of the same.”

Valletta said that playing in home waters was a real plus for his team and appealed to the general public to give their full backing to the players in such a difficult tournament.

“The fact that we are playing in front of our fans should be an advantage for us as we will have the home crowd behind us,” the former Sirens and Sliema legend said.

“My appeal to the Maltese public is to come in big numbers and support the whole team not just the players that play for their club. Our priority is that the whole team strikes success not just one or two players.

“I am sure that the Maltese fans will be behind us to make the country proud once more.”

On his part, ASA president, Karl Izzo said that he was proud that the world governing body will host another prestigious championship after staging the Champions League Final Four.

“I am so proud to be hosting another major event in Malta,” Izzo said.

“From the first day as ASA president my priority was to see all national teams competing in all competitions and for our country to host major competitions.

“With 32 teams in action, this is the biggest competition that our country will be taking part in here in Malta and matches will be staged at the National Pool and the Cottonera SC.

“I am proud to have a very strong Malta team that is blessed with a lot of players who already play in the Premier Division and Division One here.

“I am very satisfied with the work carried out by coach Jonathan Valletta and I have no doubt they will do their best to secure another historic result.”

Valletta will be assisted by Ryan Coleiro while Kenneth Camilleri is the Team Manager. National Teams Technical Director Milan Cirovic will also sit on the bench as he helped Valletta in the team’s preparation.

“It’s going to be tough as we were drawn in a tough group against Kazakhstan, Romania and Greece, with the top two moving into the knock out stages,” Izzo added.

“Our aim is to secure a top-two finish in the group and hopefully reach this objective.”

During the tournament the ASA will be hosting World Aquatics president Husain Al-Musallam.

“This is a great honour for our association to host the man holding the strongest position in world aquatics in Malta,” Izzo added.

Izzo announced that the women’s U-16 selection under the charge of Aurelien Cousin will also be competing in the women’s World Championsip that will be played in Manisa Turkey.

“It will be a new experience for most of our girls but it will serve them well for next year when they will take part in the European qualifiers in both the U-16 and U-18 age groups,” Izzo said.

“I am super happy with the work carried out by coach Aurelien Cousin and the rest of the coaching staff who are giving our players the best possible preparation.”

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


World Cup News


More in Waterpolo