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Farrugia steps down as Pietà coach

Hotspurs close to tie players, coach deal with Lecce

Ray Farrugia

Ray Farrugia

Ray 'Zazu' Farrugia has stepped down as head coach of Premier League club Pietà Hotspurs to focus his energies on the Buzu Soccer School.

The decision to relinquish the Pietà coaching post Farrugia has held for the past two seasons came after a meeting on Tuesday with Edward Schembri, the Pietà Hotspurs president and director of the company that runs the Buzu Soccer School which also employs Carmel Busuttil, the Malta assistant coach.

This move within the Hotspurs clan has also been largely influenced by Schembri's willingness to accept an attractive proposal to sign three Italian players on loan from Lecce and a coach with close connections to the Serie A club.

For his part, Farrugia has for a long time shown a desire to forgo his coaching job with the Hotspurs in order to team up with Busuttil at the Buzu Soccer School.

Contacted by The Times yesterday, Schembri confirmed that Farrugia will take up full-time employment with the Buzu Soccer School.

"After a thorough evaluation of the options we had in front of us, we have come to this mutual agreement that Farrugia be reassigned to the Buzu Soccer School," Schembri commented.

"I can confirm that we have been seriously considering a proposal from abroad but at this moment in time, I cannot reveal details of this offer as the agreement has yet to be signed," Schembri said.

"I have spoken to Ray about this project and we did not have any problems in finding a solution. Farrugia is under contract with the company that owns the Buzu Soccer School and our wish was that he rejoined our ambitious academy to give it a further boost."

"There's always a tinge of disappointment about leaving a job but at the same time I am looking forward to guide young players at the Buzu Soccer School," Farrugia said.

"In actual fact, I was supposed to take up this job two years ago when I signed my contract with the company but when the president asked me to take charge of Pietà Hotspurs, I agreed to help.

New challenge

"I don't regret the two years I spent as Pietà coach. I worked with a group of hard-working and talented players but now I will dedicate all my attention to the development of young footballers.

"This is a new challenge and having had the opportunity to assess how the Paramatta Melita Eagles-Man. United academy works in Australia, I believe I have a lot to contribute to the Buzu Soccer School."

In his two years as Pietà coach, the 48-year-old Farrugia, who had enjoyed four successful years as coach of the Malta Under-21 team, led the team to a fifth-place finish in the Premier League.

Now, Farrugia says he is very enthusiastic about extending his working relationship with Busuttil.

"I have an excellent relationship with Carmel Busuttil and I am certain that our combined coaching know-how and experience will continue to serve young Maltese players in good stead," Farrugia said.

Meanwhile, Schembri is expected to fly out to Italy next week to rubberstamp his deal with AS Lecce.

Sources have told The Times that Farrugia's successor is a former Serie A player who was at the helm of a Serie C1 side last season.

Lecce's capture of Bulgaria's precocious striker Valeri Bojinov from Pietà Hotspurs five years ago helped to foster very close ties between the two clubs.

Earlier this year, Pantaleo Corvino, the sporting director at Lecce, paid a short visit to Malta where he watched a Premier League game between Hibernians and Pietà Hotspurs and had further discussions with Schembri over future initiatives.

Cleaven Frendo, the Pietà Hotspurs international midfielder, turned out for Lecce's U-19 team in a high-profile tournament held in Switzerland a few months ago.

Schembri said that Pietà have not been officially approached by other clubs to sign any of their players.

"A few weeks ago, we received a telephone call from an official of another club who expressed interest in our goalkeeper Saviour Darmanin but we have had no official approaches for any of our players," Schembri said.

"In the next few days, we will hold talks with Valletta to discuss the future of those players who were involved of the loan deals agreed between us last season."

The Malta FA's new regulations on the registration and eligibility of players after Malta became a full a member of the European Union are likely to have forced clubs into a revision of their transfer plans.

It remains to be seen whether Pietà will retain Serbian defender Branko Nisevic if, as expected, they get three Italian players on loan from Lecce.

As Nisevic is married to a Maltese woman, he should meet the requirements laid down by the MFA to enjoy the same status as players from EU countries but the Hotspurs have yet to decide whether to register more than three foreigners, given that Premier League teams can only field three non-Maltese players.

Floriana FC AGM

Floriana FC are holding their annual general meeting tomorrow at the Vilhena Band Club at 6.15 p.m. The main item on the agenda is the election of a new committee. Members will be able to cast their vote after tomorrow's AGM and on Sunday between 9 a.m. and noon.

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