After Norman Darmanin Demajo announced that he would not be seeking re-election as President of the Malta Football Association back in April, the focus shifted on who would succeed Darmanin Demajo, who was elected to the position in 2010.
Darmanin Demajo worked tirelessly to justify the association’s mission, which states “To organise, promote and protect the game of football in Malta and Gozo with respect to the laws of the game and without discrimination on grounds of race, colour or creed.”
The two candidates for the position are currently Bjorn Vassallo and Dr Chris Bonett, who both announced that they will be contesting for presidency during the association’s Annual General Meeting on the 20th of July.
Bjorn Vassallo is currently FIFA’s Director of Member Associations in Europe at just 39-years-old, having risen through the ranks in both Maltese and international football throughout the years. Vassallo first entered the world of football administration with San Ġwann FC, when he was just 16-years-old, and he was later on selected to be the Chief Executive Officer of the MFA, a position which he stayed in for almost four years. Afterwards, he was appointed secretary general of the MFA, during which the association invested a remarkable €30 million in creating and restoring club facilities and stadium infrastructure, with the aim of boosting youth development.
Vassallo went on to serve as venue director and match commissioner for UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches, whilst also being the venue director in Nice for the UEFA Euro 2016, as well as being part of the team at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Vassallo contributed greatly to brining European competitions to Malta, with him being the chairman of the organising committee of the UEFA Under-17 Championship that was held in Malta back in 2014.
Vassallo launched his Vision 2027 campaign in June, a plan of projects that he hopes to fulfil before 2027 if he is elected President of the MFA, including a proposition to form a new team that will take part in the Italian lower divisions, whilst not affecting Malta’s BOV Premier League. He aims to emulate what is happening in Wales, with clubs like Swansea City FC and Cardiff City FC playing in England’s top two divisions, rather than in the Welsh football pyramid. He also plans to restructure the current national stadium to turn it into a stadium with a capacity of 10,000, removing the running track, in order for it to “look more like an English football stadium,” as he believes that “As it is, it has become unattractive.”
On the other hand, Dr Chris Bonett is currently the Senior Consultant at the Parliamentary Secretariat for Youth, Sport and Voluntary Organisations. The thirty-seven-year-old joined the Malta Football Association back in 2010, serving as the Head of the Legal Department. He was elected as MFA Vice-President in 2013, serving under Darmanin Demajo’s tenure as president. However, he eventually stepped down late in 2016, in order to join UEFA as its Integrity Officer, a position he held up until August of 2017.
Upon returning to Malta, Dr Chris Bonett served as the Senior Consultant to the Parliamentary Secretary for Sport, and also as Acting Chief Executive Officer of SportMalta, a remarkable achievement for someone who is still only thirty-seven years old. Apart from this, Bonett also served in the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary body, as well as being in the disciplinary panel for the UEFA Euro 2016.
Bonett has made his priorities clear if he is to be elected as President of the MFA, stating in a meeting with the media late in June that he intends to rebuilt the North, South and West stands of the national stadium, which would cost around €30 million, as well as setting up new venues and increasing the participation in Futsal, Beach Soccer and Women’s football, amongst other propositions.
The Presidential position is not the only position that is being contested for on the 20th of July, with the election for the Vice-President of the MFA also taking place, with a total of six candidates contesting for the position in which there are three vacancies.
Three of the six candidates for the position are the three current vice-presidents, Ludovico Micallef, Alex Manfre and Dr Matthew Parnis, who all have the advantage of possessing great experience in the position.
One of the most recent candidates to announce his campaign for this position is Dr Cory Greenland, who graduated from the University of Malta with a Bachelor of Communications (Hons) and a Master of Arts in European Studies, as well as graduating with a Doctor of Laws later on. Presently, he occupies the post of Vice-President of Marsaskala FC, a team that is making great strides at youth level.
Another candidate is Dr Peter Fenech, who is currently the president of First Division side Lija Athletic FC. Dr Peter Fenech served as Vice-President of the MFA for three years from 2007 up until 2010. Dr Fenech has been a member of various committees in the past, including MFA Boards, and his experience in the post will be crucial if he is to be elected.
The final candidate is Adrian D. Casha, who is currently ISA’s general secretary. Casha used to be the MFA’s Director of Refereeing, serving in the position for six years, having been elected in 2010, and stepping down in 2016. Casha has vast experience in the refereeing part of the game, and he would offer a completely different view from the rest.
As the Malta Football Association’s Annual General Meeting looms closer, whoever is elected to take up the positions of President and Vice-President has to work hard to succeed the work done by Darmanin Demajo and the rest of the board throughout the last few years, with there being a significant improvement in the youth sector of the game. Malta’s Under 21, Under 19 and Under 17 sides have managed some good results in the last few years, and the Senior Maltese National Team officials have acknowledged that with the increase in faith in youth, such as the emergence of Kyrian Nwoko and Joseph Mbong, to name a few.