[WATCH] Michael Mifsud: 'I never felt intimidated. That was my strength'

Michael Mifsud bids farewell in final Malta appearance

  “I always believed in my skills. I used to think I’m better than everyone here, even if they were far better than me. I gave my utmost, my 100%”
“I always believed in my skills. I used to think I’m better than everyone here, even if they were far better than me. I gave my utmost, my 100%”

At 39, one of Malta’s finest footballing exports yesterday played his final international game for a football-mad island nation whose fortunes in the beautiful game have been certainly too few to mention.

But Michael ‘the mosquito’ Mifsud today says that Maltese players must play international football if they are to take their next step in their career, a daunting prospect for many footballers in Malta’s Premier league.

Mifsud, currently a Sirens FC footballer, was born in Sliema to a modest family, but the diminutive striker was early on in his life a gifted footballer. As a child, whether playing football in the street or at Stella Maris College, his alma mater, Mifsud was a gifted, confident footballer who ran rings around any player. And it was a talent that took him places.

After starting his career with Sliema Wanderers, his leap to German team FC Kaiserslautern propelled him to European fame. At the time FC Kaiserslautern were competing in the German Bundesliga. “The atmosphere was spectacular. The players I played with and against were brilliant. Playing in front of crowds numbering 50,000 and 60,000, it is a different feeling,” he says.

He played 21 games for the German team, scoring two goals. He also played 50 games for the B team, scoring 21 goals. But his talent was such that he served as a substitute player for World Cup top scorer and Bayern Munich legend Miroslav Klose in his time at the club. “Playing in the German league, at its prime, at the height of my career, really helped my development. Bayern Munich had an excellent generation of players – Oliver Kahn, Michael Ballack, Roy Makaay. The list was endless.”

His international CV took him all over the world: from Norwegian club Lillestrøm to  Australian side Melbourne Heart, as well as Maltese clubs Valletta F.C., Birkirkara F.C. and Qormi F.C.

But he certainly cemented his fame in the United Kingdom, where he played for Coventry F.C. from 2007 to 2009, before moving on loan to Barnsley. Among other games with the Sky Blues, leading the line on the right flank, Mifsud helped Coventry secure a League Cup win against footballing giants Manchester United, scoring two goals to send the Red Devils crashing out of the competition.

Mifsud opened the score after 27 minutes, turning in Michael Doyle’s cross. He went on to get a second with 20 minutes left in the game. Recalling the match, Mifsud said that leading up to the game, he just wasn’t intimidated by opposing players. Indeed, it was their high profile that motivated him to succeed.

“I just was not intimidated. I think that is one of my strengths. I always believed in my skills. I used to think I’m better than everyone here, even if they were far better than me. I gave my utmost, my 100%, and that’s it,” he says, a statement that reflects the confidence he displayed on the football pitch.

It was a moment of glory for Mifsud, slaying the giants of English football and seeing them tumble out of the cup. But he didn’t have much time to bask in the glory of the win, with a league game three days later. Still, it was a campaign that marked his career, helping Coventry put two past Blackburn in a previous round, to advance to the Manchester United game. “I guess it got overshadowed because Manchester United are more widely supported,” he says.

He is also proud of his achievements with the national team, including a historic win over Armenia in 2013.  Mifsud, who made his senior debut in a friendly against Albania in 2000 at the age of 18, hails his international experience as having been crucial to improve the level of his game. “To play day in, day out with international players and World Cup winners... that massively improves your quality as a player.”

But Mifsud’s success didn’t come without sacrifice. “I was alone, in a country I didn’t know, with a language I didn’t understand. I didn’t have any family or any friends. You have to make sacrifices, but at the end it’s worth it.”

The outgoing Malta international also hailed the upcoming crop of Maltese players, stating he has seen an improvement in talent. Despite the country’s small size, there seems to be a willingness to take the sport to the next level, with an upgraade of management and facilities. “We can’t change overnight. On the other hand, in the same way as we are improving, other countries are also improving,” he points out, and suggests that the Malta Football Association’s aim to have a Malta team in an Italian league is the right direction.

Mifsud expects a rollercoaster of emotions for him as he prepares for his last game against Liechtenstein. “It will be an emotional game for me. I think I will have a lot of flashbacks of past experiences I had throughout my career,” he says.

But he regrets at not being able to play his last game in front of supporters. “Having the crowd, the South End Core, spurring you on, it would have been much better,” he said.

Mifsud will be extending his record of 142 appearances for the nation team, and is the current leading scorer with 41 goals to his name.

Biography 

Michael Mifsud, Striker, Sirens F.C.

Born: 17 April, 1981

Height: 1.64 m (5 ft 5 in)

Senior career*

Years Team Apps (Goals)
1997-2001 Sliema Wanderers 80 (60)
2001-2004 1. FC Kaiserslautern 21 (2)
2001-2004 1. FC Kaiserslautern II 50 (21)
2004 Sliema Wanderers  12 (8)
2004-2007 Lillestrom 48 (17)
2007-2009 Coventry City 86 (16)
2009 Barnsley (loan) 15 (2)
2010 Valletta 7 (7)
2011 Qormi 5 (7)
2011-2013 Valletta  47 (28)
2013-2014 Melbourne Heart 14 (1)
2014-2016 Sliema Wanderers  32 (5)
2016-2018 Valletta 55 (11)
2018-2020 Birkirkara 36 (9)
2020- Sirens 0 (0)

National team‡

2000- Malta 142 (41)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 15 August 2020

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 18 November 2019

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