'It's useless being the best of the weakest' - Clifton Grima

Parliamentary Secretary Clifton Grima says that government remains committed to helping increase the competitiveness of Maltese athletes, but insists the national mentality had to change in order to stand a chance of competing with the elite

Clifton Grima
Clifton Grima

Parliamentary Secretary for youth, sports and voluntary organisations, Clifton Grima, laid out his plans for Malta’s budding sportsmen and women in a wide-ranging interview with MaltaToday.

Outlining the government’s target of increasing the competitiveness of Maltese athletes, he said that the national mentality had to change in order to stand a chance of competing with the elite.

“We need to change the mentality of the country in general and see that the athletes who have potential get experience abroad in order to compete against athletes who are at a higher level than they are. At the moment, there is ongoing work by the commission responsible for sports in which one of the aims is to have athletes who are winning competitions. To do so we need to assess what’s happening locally.”

Asked whether football was being given too large a share of resources when compared to the results obtained, the Parliamentary Secretary insisted that the government is investing in all types of promising disciplines. He pointed to a number of projects which include the shooting range at Ta` Kandja and the Olympic size pool which is being built at the Cottonera Sports Complex. Grima said that he is comfortable entering into agreements with all sporting associations in order to give them more stability.

Grima also argued that the country needed to identify the disciplines in which it can excel and see how it can invest in these disciplines.

“We need to look at the infrastructure, grassroots and so on. But in the end, the final decision is that of the athlete. It’s no good being the best out of the weak. We are also collaborating with a number of foreign associations,” Grima said.

With regards to grassroots, Grima was asked about the number of upcoming talented local footballers who are not given a chance as they are replaced by foreigners.

“Competition doesn’t bother me as long as the foreigner is better than the Maltese,” he replied. “What bothers me is that there could be other calculations that has nothing to do with sports. It would be wise to conduct a study on how an open door for foreigners affects us. If one looks at England and Italy, it had a negative effect. We need to work for football not for our personal glory. Many clubs look at just the senior side. If the foreigners improve the quality of local football, bring them in.”

In the local context, many prospective athletes give up their discipline in order to focus more on education. For a time it looked like education and sport could not go together. However, improvements in this regard have been made through the National Sports School. When asked about this, Grima replied that the National Sports School was “doing a great job” from the academic aspect.

Asked about the government’s plans for the future, Grima stated that courage would beget results.

“If we are courageous, we will witness results. When it comes to education, it takes a number of years. If we invest in our children today, we can compete in four years. Our children have the potential to be future champions. Sport is not a hobby. I will give something to everyone, but resources should be spent on those who will bring back results.”

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