The U-13s National Team of Malta goes to the World Cup and sees what it really means to be and perform as a true collective.
Football is a technical, tactical, competition. But also one about team spirit, coexistence and solidarity. A sport in which not everything revolves exclusively around the ball. Especially when the protagonists are children. That is why the Academies’ World Cup of Football is a championship that goes beyond competition, in which matches are not an end in themselves, but a means of learning for aspiring players.
This process includes the learning of values that only a high-level tournament can provide. Something the U-13 Malta National Team had in mind in their approach to the 2018 World Cup. “Our priority is for our players to gain experience and learn how they have to behave as a team,” explains Paul Gatt, the team’s coach. “We want to work on mindset and attitude so that the kids learn to set standards and manage their emotions in a championship like this.”
The Maltese team poses for a team photo during the 2018 World Cup.The team was put together only three months before competition kicked off. The leaders of the Maltese Federation initially selected a hundred footballers, of whom only 26 remained. Their initial problem was finding opponents to face. “In Malta, there is no one to measure ourselves with,” says Gatt. “We are always looking for international tournaments to raise the bar. Something that’s very important for us, because the sooner the boys begin to add competitive experiences abroad to their experience as players, the better it will be for their sports training in terms of ambition.”
“We want to work on mindset and attitude so that the kids learn to set standards and manage their emotions in a championship like this.”
“In Barcelona our players are learning to pack their own bags and live a week without their families. That was what we were looking for, the opportunity to offer them an experience of this kind. For them it is huge. It is the first time they wear the elastic of the National Team. Any boy in Malta would want to be in his place. For them, this World Cup is like a real World Cup. ”
The only real problem though is that the kids have too much fun and forget about their immediate training objectives set by Gatt and his team. “For them being here is almost like having gone on holiday. They’re excited. Our purpose is to change this mentality and build a real team. The kids have to understand that wearing the team kit comes with certain responsibilities and the World Cup offers us the opportunity to demonstrate it.”