Malta’s progress in sports medicine, science and management is at least two decades behind other European countries, according to the sports minister.

Clifton Grima, Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sports and Voluntary Organisations, told Times of Malta: “As a nation, we never did anything, but the government is now going to invest in these fields in order to improve Malta’s chances in sports and achieving realistic results.”

He said that countries like France and the Netherlands, “started from somewhere and we are starting now.”

Steve Camilleri. Photo: Dominic BorgSteve Camilleri. Photo: Dominic Borg

Mr Grima’s comments were sought by Times of Malta after the waterpolo national team captain, Steve Camilleri, said on social media that Malta’s investment in sports science and medicine was “non-existent and backward,” and “at least 25 years behind”.

“To compete against bigger nations, we need to be ahead of the curve in sports research and sports science in order to make up for the country size and pool size of talent,” Mr Camilleri said.

Malta competed in the 2020 European Waterpolo Championships in Budapest in January. The team failed to avoid bottom place. However, this was the national team’s third qualification in the prestigious 16-team tournament.

Mr Camilleri said in a post shortly after the contest that Maltese sport needs objectives and goals to strive for, and no longer a focus on hopes or expectations of good results.

Mr Grima said he agreed with Mr Camilleri, indicating that there was a proper plan with a set of realistic short-, medium- and long-term goals in the works. He would not outline the extent of the goals but did say that there would be direct investment in training camps and professional coaching to identify young athletes with talent.

This would work in tandem with the National Sports Strategy outlined last May which sees €36 million invested in sports facilities and athletes, and the preparations to host the Games of the Small States of Europe in 2023.

“I’m looking at the 2023 GSSE; we are investing in them and apart from the logistics and infrastructure, we are investing in the athletes because investing in coaching is investing in the athletes.

“I want to look at the Games in 2023 as the stepping-stone,” he said.

The junior minister also responded to Mr Camilleri’s comments that there is a need to drastically change the mindset that sport is part of life and not a hobby. He insisted that young people need to be re-educated about physical education.

“We need to teach our children how to move, how to hit, how to fall, how to wake up, how to jump, how to land. Where are those skills? We have to give time and opportunities in order to learn this physical education,” Mr Grima said.

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