Maltese Abroad – Part 1

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This is an idea I’d had in mind for some months now but, time constraints have always found a way to beat me. With some more time now on my hands, I’m hoping to make this a more regular feature. Especially as I re-brand the site.

And so my aim is to catch up and report on those Maltese who are plying their trades abroad. I hope fans find it informative, but please feel free to offer any suggestions or critique in the comments section or e-mail here.

I do not have every player included here, but do my best with the resources available. If anyone has any further information they’d like added, again, please get in touch.

Steve Borg (Aris Limassol – Cyprus)

Former Valletta defender, Steve Borg, was not involved for his club’s fixture this Sunday – a 2-2 draw away at local rival, AEL Limassol.

The national side defender, who has 15 caps, has made a total of 30 appearances for his club this season. He also has one goal to his name.

Luke Gambin (Barnet – England)

Luke is a 23-year-old winger who has already come to the attention of national coach, Pietro Ghedin. The Sutton-born player spent a five-day trial period with the national side back in June 2015 but was ineligible to play at the time due to not having a Maltese passport. The application process was put in motion around the same time, via Luke’s parentage.

Luke has made over 90 appearances for Barnet and his latest was this Saturday when the Bees played host to Oxford United in League Two. Unfortunately, the north London club were on the wrong end of a 0-2 result and Gambin was replaced on the hour. The result leaves Barnet in 15th place on 47 points, 12 points behind the play-offs.

Sam Magri (Dover Athletic – England)

Sam is another relative newcomer to the Malta scene, having made his debut for the Under-21 side in October last year against Belgium. Portsmouth-born Sam qualifies for Malta through his Grandfather and has also represented England from Under-16 to Under-19 levels prior to Malta.

Having left QPR at the end of last season, Sam joined Vanarama National League (tier 5) club, Dover Athletic. The National League, for those not so familiar, is a mixture of full and part-time clubs and fiercely competitive. Dover, based on the south coast of England and closer to much of France than many clubs in the National League, are a part-time club who are currently riding high with designs on promotion into League Two for next season.

Saturday was another step towards promotion as Magri and Dover picked up a hard-fought 1-0 win at Guiseley (between Leeds and Bradford). The Malta Under-21, who flew out to Malta a day later to contest two games in the next week-and-a-half, played a full 90 minutes in his right-back position. He will now line-up for Malta Under-21’s against Montenegro (Wed 23 Mar @ Hibernians Stadium) and Czech Republic (Tue 29 Mar @ Ta’Qali). Both games are part of the side’s Under-21’s European Championship Qualifiers.

Dover now sit in 4th position on 65 points, just 4 points behind 3rd placed, Grimsby Town. And as we enter the business end of the season, the play-offs beckon for the side from The Crabble.

Manny Muscat (Wellington Phoenix – Australia)

Manny Muscat is in danger of becoming the forgotten man of Maltese football. The 31-year-old defender last played for Malta on 2nd September 2011 against Croatia at Ta’Qali in a European Championship Qualifier. He was then named on the bench for the subsequent 0-0 draw with Georgia on 6th September, also at Ta’Qali, before disappearing from the scene.

Melbourne-born Muscat has won a total of 9 caps and his continued absence from the national side is puzzling. He has maintained constant form for New Zealand’s sole franchise in Australia’s Hyundai A-League, the Wellington Phoenix. He has also made close to 200 appearances for the side from New Zealand’s capital, since 2008.

The latest appearance came on Sunday morning (Saturday night NZ time) when the Phoenix were downed 1-2 by the visiting Perth Glory. Muscat played 90 minutes in his now customary right-back role, although he has also spent time this season at centre-half. The result keeps the Nix in 9th place of the 10 team competition on 25 points, all but ending any play-offs hopes.

Recent news coming out of Wellington confirmed that Manny will end his 8-year association with the Nix and move back to his hometown to join Melbourne City for next season on a 2-year deal. Hopefully he hasn’t been completely written off by Pietro Ghedin and is given another chance to contribute to the national setup.

Rowen Muscat (AC Pavia – Italy)

National side mainstay, Rowen Muscat, was in action for Italian club, AC Pavia, on Sunday as they fell to a 1-2 home defeat to AC Renate. The former Birkirkara star played 90 minutes in this Lega Pro A (northern section of the 3rd tier) fixture.

Muscat is no stranger to stranger to playing abroad having also spent 7 games with Hungarian club, Dunaújváros, back in 2014-15. He began this campaign with Birkirkara again (his second spell) and was originally tipped for a move to Serie B side, Ascoli. However, with the Italian club stalling over the required fee by Birkirkara, AC Pavia made their move and signed the midfielder on loan until the end of this season. There will subsequently be an option for Pavia to sign Muscat permanently should they wish.

And so this week’s fixture leaves Pavia in 5th position and 17 points behind league leaders, Cittadella.

Zach Muscat (Akragas – Italy)

Another former Birkirkara player, another Muscat. This time it’s 22-year-old Zach, who plies his trade with Akragas in Italy’s Lega Pro C (southern section of the 3rd tier). The defender got another 90 minutes on Sunday when Akragas hosted fellow Sicilian club, Catania, and earned a 3-2 victory.

This weekend’s result sits Akragas in 8th place of the 18-team division, some 17 points behind the leaders, Benevento.

André Schembri (Omonia Nicosia – Cyprus)

The 29-year-old striker has over 70 caps for Malta and is one of the most experienced Maltese players ever to have left the Maltese Islands. His career has taken him to Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece and now Cyprus where he plies his trade with Omonoia Nicosia in the top-flight.

This Saturday he was on the scoresheet for his club as Omonia won 2-1 at Nea Salamis. Schembri opened the scoring on 36 minutes with his 14th goal in 31 appearances across all competitions this season. And it was an important win for the club as they sit one point behind the all important top three and Apollon Limassol. Omonia have 55 points and Apollon 56.

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