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Four Birkirkara players in race for top honour

MFA CEO Bjorn Vassallo (left) and Chris Bonett, the head of the MFA legal department, during yesterday’s news conference at the Centenary Hall. Also displayed is the MFA Awards trophy. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

MFA CEO Bjorn Vassallo (left) and Chris Bonett, the head of the MFA legal department, during yesterday’s news conference at the Centenary Hall. Also displayed is the MFA Awards trophy. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

After securing their fourth BOV Premier League championship in dramatic fashion, Birkirkara are poised to feature prominently in the MFA Awards on June 14 as four of their players are in the running for the coveted MFA Footballer of the Year honour.

Birkirkara goalkeeper Justin Haber and midfielders Paul Fenech, Edward Herrera and Gareth Sciberras have been shortlisted for the top prize along with Hibs winger Clayton Failla, last year’s winner, as the finalists in the various categories of the Malta FA Awards were announced yesterday.

Although the MFA Footballer of the Year award, held since 1955, has long been regarded as the ultimate individual accolade, this year’s contest has taken on added prestige as the MFA Awards will be the only event honouring players and coaches who distinguished themselves in the past season.

This came about after talks between the MFA and the organisers of the Malta Football Awards and Replay Gala Night led to an agreement to merge the three awards into one nationwide event under the association’s cap.

New categories, namely coach of the year, best young player and best foreigner, have been added to the list , which comprises the traditional top scorers awards, while the voting procedure has also been revamped.

Details of the voting criteria were given by Chris Bonett, the head of the MFA’s Legal Department.

Until last year, a panel of journalists and MFA council members voted for the five finalists for the MFA Footballer of the Year award from a list of nominees proposed by clubs and officials. The five contenders then had their points total revised using a complex formula which, among other things, took into consideration their appearances for the national team and disciplinary record.

This year, the vote was an open process in the form of a poll of the coaches and captains of the 12 Premier League clubs, MFA technical director Robert Gatt, national coach Pietro Ghedin, Malta U-21 coach Ray Farrugia plus 11 football journalists. Around 75 per cent of those eligible to vote submitted their preferences by the May 31 deadline.

Paul Zammit, whose success in steering Birkirkara to league glory after their 3-1 win over Hibernians in a title decider has been rewarded with a three-year contract extension, is on the final three-man shortlist for the coach of the year accolade. The other candidates are Michael Woods, who was at the helm of Hibernians last season, and Tarxien Rainbows coach Clive Mizzi.

The three contenders for the new Best Young Player of the Year award are Hibs duo Jean Paul Farrugia and Bjorn Kristensen, and Birkirkara’s Zach Muscat.

Floriana forward Igor Coronado is the only nominee from a club that finished outside the Championship Pool as the Brazilian is in contention for the best foreigner award.

The other two challengers are Daniel Mariano Bueno, Tarxien’s Brazilian striker, and Alejandro Mendoza, Birkirkara’s Spanish defender.

Public vote

The goal of the year will be decided by public vote. Ten of the season’s best goals, picked by a panel of journalists, will be shown on the PBS channels for the public to cast their preferences.

The list will be whittled down to five with the winner determined by another public vote during the MFA Awards night which will be broadcast live on TVM 2.

At the June 14 event, to be staged at the MFCC, MFA president Norman Darmanin Demajo will present a special award for outstanding service to local football.

Bjorn Vassallo, the Malta FA CEO, expressed his satisfaction that the various football awards organised by different entities have merged into one event.

“In the past few years, we had a number of separate events honouring the achievements of players and coaches,” Vassallo said.

“The need was felt, even by the general public, to pool these contests and create one nationwide event. Discussions about this proposal started a few months go and I’m glad that we have reached an agreement.

“I would like to thank those who have invested time, energy and money into similar initiatives in the past as their efforts helped to raise the profile of Maltese football.

“The MFA Council also agreed that the awards events should be held under the association’s umbrella and approved significant changes to the voting format.”

Vassallo also announced that the draws of the first phase of the 2013/14 BOV Premier League will be held during the MFA Awards Night.

Anton Attard, the CEO of PBS, said the Malta FA Awards represent a continuation of the collaboration between the national broadcasting company and the local football body.

Peter Busuttil, the artistic director of the event, said the awards ceremony will feature elements normally associated with stadiums as the organisers will seek to create a football-like atmosphere.

Besides the participation of local singers, members of supporters clubs and the South End Core will also play a part in the show.

The finalists

MFA Footballer of the Year: Clayton Failla (Hibs); Paul Fenech (Birkirkara); Justin Haber (Birkirkara); Edward Herrera (Birkirkara); Gareth Sciberras (Birkirkara).

Coach of the Year: Clive Mizzi (Tarxien); Michael Woods (Hibs); Paul Zammit (Birkirkara).

Best Young Player: Jean Paul Farrugia (Hibs); Bjorn Kristensen (Hibs); Zach Muscat (Birkirkara).

Best Foreign Player: Daniel Mariano Bueno (Tarxien); Igor Coronado (Floriana); Alejandro Mendoza (Birkirkara).

First Division Best Player: Erjon Beu (Lija); Raphael Kooh Sohna (Pietà); Lydon Micallef (Vittoriosa).

Second Division Best Player: Osi Lucky Agboebina (St George’s); Osmar Britto (Żebbuġ); Alan Tabone (Żebbuġ).

Third Division Best Player: Marko Milutinovic (Marsaskala); Lee Schembri (Sirens); Timmy Thomas (Senglea).

Women’s League Best Player: Ylenia Carabott (Hibs); Rachel Cuschieri (Birkirkara); Dorianne Theuma (Mosta).

Best Youth League Player: Johann Bezzina (Hibs); Yenz Cini (Valletta); Llewlyn Cremona (Valletta).

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