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MFA sacks national team coach

Assistant Carmel Busuttil also loses his job

Former Malta national coach John Buttigieg (right) and assistant Carmel Busuttil. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Former Malta national coach John Buttigieg (right) and assistant Carmel Busuttil. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

John Buttigieg has been dismissed as Malta coach, the Malta Football Association announced yesterday.

Assistant coach Carmel Busuttil has also had his contract terminated after Malta finished bottom of Euro 2012 qualifying Group F with only one point from 10 matches.

In a statement, the Malta FA said that its Executive Committee members had unanimously agreed to relieve Mr Buttigieg and Mr Busuttil of their duties with immediate effect.

“At a meeting of the MFA Executive Committee, held today (yesterday) at the MFA Headquarters in Ta’ Qali, the members of the Executive Committee unanimously decided on the immediate termination of the existing contracts of the National A Team coach, Mr John Buttigieg, and of the Assistant National A Team coach, Mr Carmel Busuttil,” the MFA statement said.

“This decision was taken following a discussion regarding the performances and results of the National A Team during the qualifying stages of the UEFA Euro 2012 competition, which performances fell short of expectations.

“In addition to the above, however, the Executive Committee also took into consideration other factors, occurrences and limitations which, in the opinion of the Executive Committee, could seriously hinder and prejudice the future preparation and performance of our National A Team.”

Mr Buttigieg took charge of the national team in July 2009 after Czech coach Dusan Fitzel was forced to relinquish his duties for health reasons. The Malta FA, then headed by Joe Mifsud, decided to award a five-year deal to Mr Buttigieg and Mr Busuttil.

The initial plan was for the two former Malta stalwarts to guide the national team through the Euro 2012 and 2014 World Cup qualifying campaigns but the team’s dismal showing in the former competition prompted the Malta FA to call time on their tenure, just over two years into their five-year contracts.

Decision unanimous says CEO Vassallo

“Football has its nice and ugly sides and I think when you come to a situation where you have to terminate the contract of a coach, no one enjoys doing that, especially if the concerned parties had forged a personal relationship,” Bjorn Vassallo, the Malta FA CEO, told The Times last night.

“But, the sense of responsibility means that the final decision befits both parties. To this end, the Executive Committee has discussed the positions of Buttigieg and Busuttil after more than two years of work and came to the conclusion that their contracts be terminated with immediate effect.

“It was not an easy decision, but because of the various circumstances I’d rather not dwell upon, the decision was taken unanimously.”

Mr Vassallo said the Malta FA would now go back to the drawing board to plan its future strategy vis-à-vis the national teams.

“The next match of the national ‘A’ team is still some time away and therefore, I can’t tell you now what the MFA’s future position will be, also because the matter is to be discussed in the coming weeks,” he said.

“What is certain is that we have to go back to the drawing board to map out our strategy.

“On behalf of the MFA, I would like to thank the two coaches for their commitment and effort during their tenure.”

Although the parting of ways was rubberstamped by the members of the Malta FA’s Executive Committee yesterday afternoon, their positions had been discussed by the association’s bureau prior to the Exco meeting.

The Malta FA Bureau is composed of president Norman Darmanin Demajo, Mr Vassallo, vice-presidents Carmelo Bartolo, Alex Manfre and Ludovigo Micallef, treasurer Antoine Portelli and Joe Gauci, the general secretary.

Sources told The Times that Robert Gatt, the MFA technical director, was also asked to give his views on the matter during the meeting of the Bureau.

The issue was then discussed at length by the members of the Executive Committee.

A member of the MFA Executive Committee, who didn’t wish to be named, said the “writing was on the wall” after Mr Darmanin Demajo’s damning assessment of Mr Buttigieg’s selection policy in comments he gave to The Sunday Times.

“I believe that full-time professional players who play in leagues that are better and faster are mentally stronger and more suited to national team duty, but in the past few games we have witnessed the dwindling presence of our ‘foreign’ professionals in the starting line-up,” Mr Darmanin Demajo was reported as saying.

Mr Darmanin Demajo’s criticism shed light on what the MFA described as “other factors, occurrences and limitations” which could hamper the future preparation and performances of the national team.

Since taking over as national team coach, Mr Buttigieg has made some unpopular decisions.

Defender Luke Dimech, presently on the books of Cypriot club AEK Larnaca, reluctantly retired from international football early last year after being frozen out by the coach for several months, former captain Gilbert Agius was dropped while André Schembri and Daniel Bogdanovic were also overlooked for international duty for a long time before earning a recall.

It also emerged yesterday that the majority of the Malta FA Exco members have proposed that a foreign coach be appointed as successor.

Attempts to contact Mr Buttigieg yesterday were unsuccessful.

Maltese coaches at the helm

Coach Appointment Record
Joe Griffiths Feb. 1957 – June 1961 P6 W2 D2 L2 F7 A7
Karm Borg Nov. 1961 – March 1964

Oct. 1970 – April 1971 P9 W0 D2 L7 F5 A26
Tony Formosa Feb. 1966

May 1971 – Nov. 1973 P10 W1 D1 L8 F2 A27
Joe Attard April 1969 P1 W0 D0 L1 F1 A3
Saviour Cuschieri Jan. 1970 P1 W0 D1 L0 F1 A1
Victor Scerri Sept. 1973 – Nov. 1973

Oct. 1978 – Dec. 1983 P29 W5 D3 L21 F18 A93
John Calleja Oct. 1976 – May 1978 P11 W2 D1 L8 F4 A31
Pippo Psaila June 1991 – June 1993 P17 W5 D4 L8 F14 A31
Robert Gatt Feb. 1996 P3 W0 D1 L2 F1 A6
John Buttigieg Aug. 2009 – Oct. 2011 P21 W2 D3 L16 F12 A41
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