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Gzira football club faces bleak future

The Gzira United Football Club, located on Manoel Island, is in limbo, and its administrators have no idea where its future is taking it, or whether it has one at all.

The issue of premises, location and legal title on Manoel Island, ever since Midi took over its development, seems to have not only hit the Royal Malta Yacht Club. Even the football club has experienced a six-year saga, which, as yet, seems to have no concrete end in sight, according to its president Tyrone Demanuele.

The club has made one request: "We would want the government to tell us in black and white that once the new community grounds are ready, we would have legal title at a reasonable rent".

Over the years, it has dealt with more than one minister and a number of parliamentary questions were tabled on the issue. Yet, the future is still bleak.

As a result, the present premises are in total shambles, the president explained.

"It does not make sense to invest in the club and maintain it if there is the possibility that we move to new premises (further up from the present site). It would be pointless to upgrade the place only for it to be demolished soon after.

"The project could kick off in six months, in eight; it could be in a year..." even though Urban Development Minister Jesmond Mugliett had said that works on the new community ground by Midi had to start in the first three months of this year.

This has not happened, and meanwhile, the club, which is also a football nursery for 150 children, with another 50 in the first team and the under 19s, is in a state of disrepair and is losing children as a result, Mr Demanuele said, pointing out that Gzira children were now training in other clubs.

"We are facing the risk that once the new pitch and clubhouse are built, we would end up with nothing," the president said. He fears that the premises would be rented out at commercial rates, which it simply could not afford, or else under restricting conditions, such as being unable to have any commercial activity, something which allowed it to survive.

Mr Demanuele said the club also organises social functions as a means to raise money to pay the coaches for the children's training.

The Gzira United Football Club has been running the premises for the past 17 years even though there is not much to vouch for that in black and white.

A letter from the then Ministry of Education and National Culture, dating back to 1997, loosely recognises the position of the football club as responsible for the day-to-day running of the premises, but points out that the sport section of the Department of Youth and Sport of the parliamentary secretariat was ultimately responsible for the facility's proper use.

That was all the club had to go by in its battle to retain "ownership", but for Mr Demanuele there were no two ways about it.

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