[WATCH] South End Core hopes to attract bigger crowds at Ta’ Qali

Despite bad results, Dillon Mercieca wants Maltese to back the national team and not simply be awestruck by foreign team

(From left) Kevin Schieda, Dillon Mercieca and Mandy Camilleri
(From left) Kevin Schieda, Dillon Mercieca and Mandy Camilleri

The Maltese national sporting teams’ supporters club is hoping a new wave of youthful energy can boost stadium numbers.

As a new South End Core leadership comes into its own, Dillon Mercieca, who is set to replace Louis Agius, says he is hoping to improve attendances for the national team by boosting the group’s social media and stadium presence.

The South End Core (SEC), a supporters group which follows and supports the Maltese national teams in major sporting events, was formed in 2007 by supporters hailing from local football clubs in Malta.

The SEC has now supported teams representing the country in football, rugby, waterpolo and even futsal.

But Mercieca is hoping that a youthful presence within the SEC can be a step towards improving supporter numbers in the stands. “We want to instil the mentality of making a national team game an outing for young people. Instead of going to Paceville or going to a bar to drink, we want young people to see national team games as an event to attend.”

Mercieca is hoping better social media presence and bigger membership numbers could be the closest targets for the group to achieve. “We want to introduce paid members, so that we can keep them updated with news and also have a new source of funding. We will continue on the foundations of those who came before. But we are going to give SEC some ‘branding’ attention.”

Mercieca said football games tend to be defined by two factors: the first is the scoreline, but the second is the way the SEC creates an atmosphere that is remembered by those attending. “We want people to encourage others to come to the stadium, and we can only achieve that by providing a great experience,” Mercieca said.

Mercieca said that the bad results of the Maltese national football team are only part of the problem.

“The diminishing supporters’ numbers also have a lot to do with mindset. The Maltese would go to a match if we play against England or Italy, but wouldn’t go to watch Malta against lowly Kosovo. Rather than supporting our own, we actually enjoy watching our rivals,” he said.

The new SEC leader doesn’t blame people for losing their interest after a long string of defeats, but insists there must be a change in mentality.

He also said too much criticism gets levelled at the Malta Football Association. “Both Maltese football clubs and the MFA share the blame for the dire situation football in Malta finds itself in.”

Mercieca said he wants the MFA to be more open to suggestions given by lower-tier teams. “Of course, the Premier League houses the best footballing talent in the country, but every decision taken trickles down the divisions,” he said, while complaining about the lack of a professional environment for Maltese football to flourish.

“Some clubs claim that they have professional status, but their players are in full-time employment before their evening training session. That is amateur level football or semi-professional at the most,” Mercieca said.

He said that with this level of professionalism, the Maltese football scene doesn’t have any chance of improving.

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