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Magri thrilled by new challenge

Sam Magri (right) with Malta U-21 coach Silvio Vella before the Super Cup match at the National Stadium on Wednesday. Photo: Paul Zammit Cutajar

Sam Magri (right) with Malta U-21 coach Silvio Vella before the Super Cup match at the National Stadium on Wednesday. Photo: Paul Zammit Cutajar

Sam Magri is determined to repay the MFA’s faith by proving his worth in international football after the English-born defender secured a Maltese passport.

Magri collected his document yesterday after flying to Malta on Wednesday in time to watch the BOV Super Cup final between Hibs and Birkirkara at the National Stadium.

He was accompanied by Jesmond Abela, the manager of the MFA technical centre who assisted Magri throughout the passport application process.

“It’s great,” Magri said.

“I’m really looking forward to playing for Malta. I’ve been speaking with the manager (U-21 coach Silvio Vella) and I’ve heard many good things about Maltese football.”

Magri, who came through Portsmouth youths, qualifies for Malta citizenship through his paternal grandfather.

The MFA technical centre had been monitoring Magri’s progress for a number of years but for a time, the prospect of seeing him don the Malta shirt looked remote as the defender was a regular for England at youth level. Unsurprisingly, England had been Magri’s first preference but he had never closed the door on representing Malta.

“I remember that, when I was 16, I said that I would consider playing for Malta,” Magri remarked.

“I was hoping to get the chance to play for England but it never really came. Now the chance to play for Malta has arrived and I’m glad to have accepted this challenge.”

In his teens, Magri was widely regarded as a bright England prospect.

After his time at Portsmouth, he spent two years with the QPR Academy and had a loan spell with Nuneaton Town in 2014.

Last season, Magri played for Crystal Palace’s development squad but in July he signed a one-year deal with Dover Athletic, who ply their trade in the Conference League.

Magri explained that his decision to go down a few divisions was motivated by his desire to get regular action at senior level.

“I want to play first-team football on a regular basis,” Magri said.

“I’ve really enjoyed it so far and I’m concentrating on playing as many games as possible this season.”

As Magri is still eligible to play U-21 football, he has set his sights on earning a call-up for Malta’s Euro U-21 qualifiers away to Czech Republic and Montenegro in September.

“I know that the Malta U-21 have two games at the start of next month and I hope to be available for the team,” Magri said.

“If I do well for the U-21s, then I hope to gradually earn the chance to play for the senior Malta side. That would be great for me and my family.”

Magri said his family are delighted about his decision to play for Malta, especially his grandfather.

“They’re really happy, especially my grandad,” Magri said.

“He has done all the stuff, sorting out the documentation for my passport application and I’m very grateful for that.”

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