As the women’s game is growing across the globe, the Maltese movement is also looking to catch up with this holistic development. Foreign-based Emma Lipman and Anna Vincenti are the latest members to join the Malta team as they hope to take their experience on the international stage. Gianluca Lia spoke to both players ahead of the national team’s friendly with Bolton Ladies today…

Until few years ago, the Malta women’s national team could only bank on locally-based players, featuring in the senior leaguew that the Malta Football Association organises for women’s teams.

Yet, during the last season, there were not less than seven internationals featuring abroad as the Maltese players are starting to search opportunities overseas as they look to improve their level of football.

As a selection of the national team is gearing up to face Bolton Ladies, a third-tier team in English football and who will be playing their first ever international game, this morning the two overseas-based players will be wearing the Malta colours even though it won’t count as an official debut.

In fact, coach Mark Gatt has had the opportunity to call-up Anna Vincenti, goalkeeper at Scottish side Motherwell, and Emma Lipman, who spent the 2018/2019 campaign at Serie A side Roma.

While this game will serve as a preparation ahead of the UEFA Women’s Euro 2021 qualifiers which will commence next August, for Lipman and Vincenti it will be their first taste on the international stage.

Lipman, 30, who can play for Malta through her grandmother’s Maltese citizenship, will certainly bring a lot of experience into the side given her distinguished career that has seen play at the likes of Manchester City, Verona and now Roma.

Having already trained with her new Maltese team-mates, Lipman has described her experience so far as ‘humbling’ and has been impressed by the players’ passion for the game.

“We are still in the early stages, but it has been a humbling experience so far because these players combine football with their studies or work, therefore their passion for the game has really struck me,” Lipman admitted to the Times of Malta.

Playing as a full-time player has certainly helped Lipman to mature as a player and feels that the Roma experience has continued to help her grow.

“It was a historic year at Roma as it was the first season for the women’s team in affiliation with the parent club. With the coaching staff brought in and the resources we have, we are trying to raise the bar,” she said.

“Through our mix of experience and youth, we have laid the foundations for a solid future as a club.”

While Roma enjoyed a positive debut season, finishing fourth in the championship and reaching the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia, Lipman was more satisfied with the number of people attending women’s games.

“Honestly, I see a lot of similarities between the Serie A and the Women’s Super League in England, in particular when I was there, because the game is starting to grow a lot and with the introduction of clubs likes Juventus, Milan, Fiorentina and also newly-promoted Inter, it shows that the interest is increasing,” she underlined.

“I have been in Italy for two years now, and I have seen a lot of improvement in the product - Italy’s qualification to the Women’s World Cup was a blessing for the whole movement.

“Such dedication that I saw in these countries, I can also see it in Malta – I am not familiar with the society here, but within the MFA there are people who are really dedicated to this cause and that is a solid base for future projects.”

Her vast experience has helped Lipman to nurture rational thoughts about the improvement of the women’s game and while she feels that the movement has come a long way, there are still aspects which should be taken into account for further development.

“First of all, I think there should be more sense of professionalism - the beauty of the women’s game is the stories that we have behind us when it comes to make a breakthrough into this game as females,” Lipman said.

“However, it is important now that clubs create the proper environments for girls so that their growth as a person and  player will be so flowing that when they make the jump into senior football, they won’t have any culture shock.

“Another thing which I feel there is the need to implement in a stronger way is the education – from nutritional to sports science, ending with the mindset because it is important not only when it comes to kicking the ball on the field, but also for the daily life.”

Scotland challenge

Vincenti, on her part, has a far different background from Lipman.

The 1995-born goalkeeper was a promising skier who had qualified for the Winter Olympics in 2014, only to be denied in the last minute as the Russian contingent had taken her slot.

Nonetheless, the Motherwell goalkeeper is still grateful for that experience as she feels that it has helped her to strengthen her character, especially in her sports career.

“Despite missing the Sochi Games in 2014, I feel it was a blessing in disguise because I don’t think I was physically ready for such commitment,” she said.

“Nonetheless, I had still competed at the highest stages having been part of World Cups and other events.

“Hence, I feel that my journey will give me an advantage when it comes to control my nerves in international games.”

Before joining Motherwell around two months ago, Vincenti was out of the game for eight years. Yet, she was still active having been training as a skier which she feels has helped her to improve her characteristics between the sticks.

“Obviously, I need to work on my game time, however, I feel that the training as a skier has helped me to add more features to my goalkeeping repertoire,” Vincenti explained.

“For example, given that I did freestyle skiing it helped me in my jumping, in the way of falling and also diving.”

For Vincenti, playing in Scotland is an extra challenge and with the Scotland national team qualifying to the World Cup, she feels that the hype and interest into the women’s game in the British territory, will continue to boost her level of play.

Malta squad

Goalkeepers: Anna Vincenti (Motherwell, Scotland); Patricia Ebejer (Mġarr United).

Defenders: Stephania Farrugia, Ann-Marie Said, Alishia Sultana (all Birkirkara); Emma Lipman (AS Roma, Italy); Nicole Sciberras (Grifone Gialloverde, Italy); Charlene Cassia, Jasmine Vella Turner (Mġarr United).

Midfielders: Simone Buttigieg (Swieqi United); Dorianne Theuma, Shona Zammit (both Hibernians); Veronique Mifsud, Ylenia Carabott (both Birkirkara); Brenda Borg (Mġarr United); Maria Farrugia (Sunderland, England).

Forwards: Kailey Willis (Birkirkara); Martina Borg (Fortitudo Mozzecane, Italy); Haley Bugeja (Mġarr United).

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