[WATCH] Give us the resources and we’ll make it to the Olympics, Malta water polo coach insists

Karl Izzo explained how the sport has come a long way in Malta and that with more resources, it can continue to reach new heights

Malta water polo national team coach Karl Izzo
Malta water polo national team coach Karl Izzo

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Malta’s national water polo team made it to the European Championships for the second time in the country’s history this year, and despite crashing out of the competition in the group stages, national team coach Karl Izzo believes it could be just the start.

Izzo was the second guest on the program Xtra Sajf hosted by Saviour Balzan, where he discussed the national team as well as the evolution of the sport in Malta.

He said that while Malta could be considered one of the best 16 teams in Europe, it would always be at a disadvantage because its players were not playing on a professional level.

“I would like us to go to the highest level, the Olympics, but if we don’t train seven hours a day it won’t happen,” Izzo said.

“The teams we play against recently in Barcelona are all professional, we are not professionals we have doctors, we have players that are still studying at University, we have players that come to the pool straight after work.”

Talks were underway, he said, to attempt to get some players playing on a semi-professional level. “There are children who have potential, and with an adequate funding, I’m sure they can make it.”

Asked about response from authorities, Izzo said it was positive. “There’s a good vibe at the moment because they know water polo has already given us some success.”

The fact that Malta had made to European Championships for second time showed that the first was not just a one-off, Izzo said.

He explained that Maltese players faced a number of challenges, chief among which is a lack of time in the pool. The national pool, he said, needed to cater for swimming and synchronized swimming, in addition to water polo.

Izzo stressed however that authorities were aware of the need for more facilities and a tender for the first set of indoor pools would soon be issued. He said this would help the team when playing in competitions abroad, since many of them are played in indoor pools, and environment which takes some getting used to.

Despite the challenges, Izzo said that the sport had come along way. He spoke of his frustration at the fact that when he started, the national team would sometimes play a mere two games in a year.

“To improve you need to play games, and you need to play games against teams that are better than you.”

To further strengthen the game, Izzo said that the Aquatic Sports Association was also working with Bank of Valletta and other sponsors to create a fund that will be used to send local players to play and train abroad. He said that having players who have experienced foreign leagues and facilities is always a help on the local game, and something that needed to be encourage by local authorities.

Finally, Izzo said he was happy that the nation was starting to appreciate the water polo team’s success.

“The game against Belarus will always remain in my mind, seeing the pool full of people all holding Maltese flags. They were out eighth man.”