Sliema’s idea can put Malta on world map

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MALTA, where Talking Sport finds itself based this week chronicling Sheffield United’s pre-season tour of the Mediterreanean hotspot, could soon experience a football export transformation.

As this newspaper reported yesterday, a leading official from Sliema Wanderers, who entertained Danny Wilson’s squad at Ta’Qali last night, wants to expose aspiring professionals on the island to the rigours of life at leading European clubs in order to improve Malta’s national team.

Should clubs in England, Spain and Italy prove receptive to his idea, then, given the largely untapped talent which exists at youth level in places such as Valetta, Floriana and Paola, then there is every reason to believe that John Buttigieg’s charges could shed their tag as the under-achievers of every UEFA and FIFA qualifying tournament and start to challenge for a place in the tournaments proper.

Elsewhere, though, new fronts are already being established in the battle for supremacy. Carlos Tevez’s proposed return to Corinthians is evidence of that.

The traditional powers in rugby union are faced with similar threats.

Japan, long seen as a halfway house to retirement for battered and bruised former All-Blacks and Springboks, is now starting to tempt younger, hungrier players.

Brazil, with its booming economy and a currency which is growing in confidence with every passing day, is even better equipped to flex its financial muscle.

Given the fact that Brazil is also football’s spiritual if not historic home, there is every reason to believe that Tevez may not be the only leading player who finds himself journeying back across the Atlantic.

Who wouldn’t, for example, relish the prospect of appearing in front of thousands of people at the Maracana or plying his trade in at Sao Paulo or Santos?

Especially if, and let’s be blunt, the financial rewards are also astronomical.

What illustrates this growing threat the most, though, is the fact that Corinthians, armed with a new bumper television deal, seem capable of financing the package on their own without resorting to the patronage of a sponsor.

And even if Brazil fails to make use of the sporting tools at its disposal, how long before a steady stream of high-calibre players start arriving in China?

The regime there, you can bet your bottom yuan, will make it their business to succeed at football.

Despite a few false starts, it would take a brave man not to back them to do it.