Young football players from Malta’s national U16 and U17 teams have completed a useful training camp in Slovakia under the patronage of NR Sport. They spent almost a week during November 2021 in Dunajská Streda, which became their temporary home. The young Maltese have played four games at the camp. The U16 team, led by Andrea Vella, who also worked as an assistant to the U17 team, lost to DAC 1904 Dunajská Streda 0:2 (0:0) and won against Petržalka 5:1 (2:1). Team U 17, coached by Ivan Woods, lost to DAC 1904 Dunajská Streda 1:5 (1:2) and won against Petržalka 2:0 (1:0). Of course, more came out of the camp than just the results. We talked about their stay in Slovakia with Ivan Woods, 45, a native of Toronto, Canada. As an excellent striker, he played for FC La Valletta, Sliema Wanderers, Pieta Hotspurs and Floriana La Valletta before ending his career with Sliema in 2014. Over his career with the clubs, he won championships four times (in 1997, 1998 and 1999 for FC La Valetta and in 2005 for Sliema) and the FA Trophy five times (1995, 1996 and 1997 with FC La Valetta, 2009 with Sliema, and 2011 with Floriana). Woods played 47 games for Malta between 2003 and 2011, scoring one goal in a key match against NT of Northern Ireland (1:1). He currently coaches the Malta U 17 team and provides these young players with insights into his own experiences. As he once himself played for Malta on the U 16, U 18 and U 21 teams, he has also mastered the specifics of youth football. Honestly, we were impressed with the words of praise from this major figure in Maltese football.
What do you think about your team’s play?
“Our main aim is to develop confident and comfortable players used to the game style adopted by the Malta National Teams Head Coach. The end result is not the most important thing at this stage of the technical project the Malta Football Association is implementing. Nonetheless, our game approach is proactive and it is important that we do everything possible to win.”
Did the training camp meet your expectations?
“The training camp was excellent in every way: organisation, logistics, hospitality, the sports facilities, the persons accompanying us on a daily basis – it was a great experience!”
What did the comparison with Slovak teams show you from a physical point of view?
“This is part of the ongoing process and we are currently working on improving this aspect of the game.”
What do you see as the main difference between your team and the Slovak rivals in terms of skills and abilities?
“The physical element was the main difference. But other than that, it was rather balanced from a technical point of view.”
Is such a training camp useful for the progress of your team?
“Experiences like these not only improve the footballing side, which is something we lack due to our location in the world, but it allows us to improve our relationship with the players, understanding them better as individuals rather than athletes, which is fundamental in youth development.”
Were there some benefits brought by the training camp’s combining the U 16 and U 17 teams?
“It is always a great opportunity to travel with two groups, and we managed to spend a lot of time thinking about football.”
Will you be coming back to the training camp in Slovakia?