Updated 5.35pm - added MFA reaction
European football body UEFA has banned six Malta under-21 football players for match-fixing offences in relation to two European qualifying matches played less than two years ago.
UEFA's Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body opened an investigation into an U-21 match between Malta and Montenegro played on March 23, 2016 at the Hibs Stadium and a subsequent game played by the Maltese youngsters against the Czech Republic six days later.
Emanuel Briffa, who was on the books of Floriana, and Pieta Hotspurs' Kyle Cesare were both handed a life ban from all football related activity for “having acted in a manner that is likely to extert an unlawful or undue influence on the course and/or result of a match or competition with a view to gaining an advantage for himself or a third party”.
Birkirkara had three players suspended, as Ryan Camenzuli was banned for a year-and-a-half while midfielder Llewelyn Cremona and striker Luke Montebello were both handed a one-year suspension. Balzan’s Samir Arab was banned for two years.
These four players were found guilty of failing to “not immediately and voluntarily informing UEFA if approached in connection with activities aimed at influencing in an unlawful or undue manner the course and/or result of a match or competition.”
In its statement, UEFA said that “it takes this opportunity to emphasise its commitment to rid football of the scourge of match-fixing – described by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin as “a disease that attacks football’s very core”.
MFA general secretary Angelo Chetcuti told a news conference that the sanctions were another damaging blow to the image of local football but the governing body was determined to continue its fight against match-fixing.
"These sanctions are a hammer blow for the image of Maltese football," Chetcuti said.
"I feel really disappointed but at the same time we should use this case as an incentive to pull up our socks and work even harder to protect the 'Beautiful Game' in Malta.
"It would be a huge mistake if we had to throw in the towel in front of these circumstances as at the end of the day it's the game that will come out as the loser.
"It's important that we keep as our main priority to maintain the values of integrity in the game that are central to our sport."
It is interesting to note that in August 2016 both Cesare and Briffa had been acquitted of match-fixing charges related to the game against Montenegro in a local court.
However, Chetcuti pointed out yesterday that there is a major difference in the amount of proof needed to be found by the law courts and the sporting disciplinary bodies against an indicted person.
"In a law court, a person is found guilty of a particular charge if he is proven to have committed the crime beyond reasonable doubt. On the other hand, a sporting disciplinary body needs only to have comfortable satisfaction that the crime took place to find a person guilty."
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