Malta bid to strengthen their bond with United

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THE Maltese Football Association could explore ways of strengthening their relationship with Sheffield United, Bjorn Vassallo, the organisation’s chief executive, has revealed.

Vassallo, speaking exclusively to The Star, admitted the South Yorkshire club’s visits have played a part in helping to improve standards on the island.

United, who return to England today following games against Zejtun Spartans and Hibernians, boast ties with leading figures in both its sporting and commercial sectors.

Vassallo said: “The challenges facing football on the island are being met by several innovative plans and the relationship with Sheffield United has gone a long way towards helping this process of reforms.

“There has been an exchange of ideas and knowledge and also refined networking which have strengthened the bond between Maltese football and our friends at the English team.

“Some of the plans to improve our game include the format of the national league and knock-out competitions, the revamping of regional football and the influx of foreign players.

“Also, new approaches to coaching education.”

United continue their preparations for the new League One season when they face neighbours Rotherham on Tuesday.

They travel to the New York Stadium with an unblemished record in warm-up matches this summer having beaten Corinthians 6-0 at Ta’Qali before Wednesday evening’s goalless draw with last term’s BOV Premier League runners-up.

Representatives from Corinthians visited United’s Shirecliffe academy two years ago as part of a fact finding mission.

Vassallo said: “As far as sending players and coaches to Sheffield in order to boost their techniques in the respective fields as part of a reciprocal arrangement, the Maltese Association would certainly welcome such an idea.

“Such agreements already exist with Italian clubs since the logistics are favourable.”

“In terms of the benefits derived by Sheffield United through this relationship with Maltese football, one can certainly point out the friendliness and hospitality of our people,” Vassallo added.

“This has provided the United players and staff with the psychological ingredient necessary to enhance their technical and physical skills.

“Undoubtedly, these ties between the MFA and Sheffield United have helped foster a great and warm understanding which can only serve for our mutual benefit.”

Naturally, both parties also hope to reap rewards in commercial terms.

“The facilities and infrastructure at the Ta’Qali national complex have made it possible for the MFA to make them available for European markets,” Vassallo said.

“Swiss, Italian, Scottish and Belgian teams have been in Malta for training over the past few years and, certainly, the Malta FA would welcome more business from clubs with England.

“Maltese football followers have a particular affection with clubs from England.”