After Iceland’s heroics, Busuttil calls on Maltese athletes to be inspired

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil tells party conference on sports that Iceland’s football success at the European Championships strengthens his resolve for Maltese athletes to be successful and for Malta to invest in country's sports facilities

Iceland’s heroics at the European football championships in Paris should inspire Maltese athletes and the Maltese government to promote sport as a way of life, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said today.

Iceland – a country with a population of 330,000 people – became the smallest country by population to ever qualify for the finals of the European Championship. Its meteoric rise in the world of football has seen the country’s football team shock the world of football first by qualifying for Euro 2016, and then by eliminating England to qualify for the last eight of the competition. And now, after an unbeaten run, it will face hosts and pre-tournament favourites France for a chance to qualify for the semi-final.

Immediately after Iceland’s success, questions were raised by local football enthusiasts on how Iceland – a country with a population smaller than Malta’s – achieved the seemingly-impossible achievement of beating some of Europe’s football giants. On the football pitch, Iceland’s success has been down to sheer determination, hard work and efficiency, but behind the scenes, Iceland owes its success to its investment in a player deveploment system and sport facilities.

But notwithstanding the envisioned success such investment would bring to Malta on the football pitch, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil insisted that if the Maltese government were to invest in sports, Malta’s successes could go beyond, as sports could be used to eradicate Malta’s worrying obesity rates and incidence of diabetes.

Despite registering decreases in the rate of obesity among schoolchildren, Malta still holds the unenviable record of being among the most obese in the European Union and has among the highest rates of diabetes in Europe.

Speaking at the end of the PN’s three-day conference on sport, the PN leader held that sport is a “metaphor of life” and that its values – namely those of teamwork, unity, equality and sportsmanship – should serve as a lesson for all, including politicians.

He said investment should not be limited to football only, but should also extend to other sports and also target individuals who had never practised sport.

Admitting that he is envious of Iceland’s success, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said Malta should follow in Iceland’s footsteps. Referring to Iceland’s passage to the quarter-finals as an inspiration for a “David and Goliath story”, Busuttil expressed his admiration and said that Maltese athletes should inspire themselves from their Icelandic counterparts. 

“Iceland should inspire us, as they are truly the underdog. I admire them and envy them in a positive sense, and their success increases my resolve for Maltese athletes to be successful,” Busuttil said.

The PN leader argued that sports facilities should become part of the country’s regeneration. He said Malta should emulate Malta’s bid for Valletta to become the European Capital of Culture in 2018, arguing that only through aims and commitments would the country ensure that the necessary investment is made.

Busuttil also said that Malta could host major international sporting events, possibly bigger than the Small Nations Games which as hosted twice, and for this reason the PN would be receiving proposals from sports associations to determine which events could be hosted in Malta.

“This requires large investment, I believe that the resources necessary for the investment would be there when we have a leadership with a clear vision, and I assure you that sport will be a priority for a PN government. Sport as a healthy way of living is part of my vision for every Maltese to lead a better life,” Busuttil added.

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