Malta's football coach has a tougher job than the prime minister's, BBC Sport reports today in a feature on the Tom Saintfiet, who became Malta's soccer boss in October.
The feature is headed: "Tom Saintfiet: The minnow master daring Malta to dream of Euro finals."
It is focused on his exploits at the head of a range of national soccer teams, from the Faroe Islands to Qatar.
"He fled the Zimbabwean army in the dead of night, went to Yemen against his embassy's advice and had an armed escort to training in Bangladesh. But Malta head coach Tom Saintfiet has never had a challenge quite like this," it says of his current appointment.
Nonetheless, it says, this is a man who makes minnows rise. He thrives on being an underdog.
With Namibia, Ethiopia and Yemen, Saintfiet forged a reputation for guiding footballing minnows to surprise results against more illustrious opponents.
The British broadcaster points out that Saintfiet has a small talent pool in Malta, but he has initiated a global search for potential players of Maltese descent.
He has a spreadsheet with dozens of players, most in youth academies of professional English clubs. One earmarked for the future, playing in Australia, is only 13.
The hunt for players also sees Saintfiet and his assistant, Ray 'Zazu' Farrugia, watching any competitive football match they can across Malta, hoping to uncover a diamond in the rough of the local leagues.
"Last week we saw seven games in three days," Zazu said.
"I've been with the federation for 12 years and I've always said one thing - being head coach of the national team of Malta is a harder job than being Prime Minister."
For Europe's smallest football nations, the latest World Cup qualifiers offers inspiration for Malta's coach, the BBC reports.
"A lot of people look to Iceland, Faroe Islands, Latvia, Estonia, but these countries already made the change 20 years ago in their development," Saintfiet told the broadcaster.
"Malta started a few years ago and in the next 10 to 15 years Malta will for sure improve internationally and be able to compete on a higher level. You won't see the results in one or two years but in five to 10 years."
An immediate priority is moving to a more progressive style of play where the gameplan is not merely keeping the score respectable.
The Uefa Nations League is a key reason for Saintfiet's desire to attack. Beginning this year, the tournament splits Europe's 55 national teams into four groups based on ranking.
Designed to run alongside European Championship qualifying, the format means one of Europe's 16 lowest-ranked teams is guaranteed a spot at future European Championships.
"The moment we play against San Marino, Gibraltar, or even Armenia or Macedonia, maybe we have to implement a different style," Saintfiet said.
"I think this  Nations League will be experimental for us. I hope we can win one or two, maybe three matches.
"And I believe if we can make this development of changing style, developing young players, professionalising our own league and getting more players abroad, then for the 2024 European Championship we could have the ambition to win the Nations League for our level.
"We can dream about competing to qualify for the European Championships in 2024."
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