Six Malta under-21 players have been handed bans by European football governing body, UEFA, after they were found guilty of match-fixing offences in relation to two European qualifying matches in 2016.
The association’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body had earlier opened an investigation into an U-21 match between Malta and Montenegro on March 23, 2016 at the Hibs Stadium as well as a subsequent game played by the same U-21 team against the Czech Republic six days later.
Former Floriana player Emanuel Briffa and Kyle Cesare of Pieta Hotspurs received a life ban from all football related activity for “having acted in a manner that is likely to extert an unlawful or undue influence on the course and/or result of a match or competition with a view to gaining an advantage for himself or a third party”.
Three players from Maltese side Birkirkara received various sentences.
Midfielder Llewelyn Cremona and striker Luke Montebello received a one-year suspension each while Ryan Camenzuli got a year-and-a-half ban. Samir Arab of Balzan was banned for two years.
These aforementioned four players were found guilty of failing to “not immediately and voluntarily informing UEFA if approached in connection with activities aimed at influencing in an unlawful or undue manner the course and/or result of a match or competition.”
In its statement, the European football governing body revealed that “it takes this opportunity to emphasise its commitment to rid football of the scourge of match-fixing – described by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin as “a disease that attacks football’s very core”.
Malta Football Association (MFA) general secretary Angelo Chetcuti disclosed via a news conference that the sanctions were another setback to the image of local football and that the body’s fight against match-fixing will continue regardless.
In his words, Chetcuti said: “These sanctions are a hammer blow for the image of Maltese football.”
“I feel really disappointed but at the same time we should use this case as an incentive to pull up our socks and work even harder to protect the ‘Beautiful Game’ in Malta.
“It would be a huge mistake if we had to throw in the towel in front of these circumstances as at the end of the day it’s the game that will come out as the loser.
“It’s important that we keep as our main priority to maintain the values of integrity in the game that are central to our sport.” he concluded.
In August 2016, Cesare and Briffa were both cleared of match-fixing charges related to the game against Montenegro in a local court.
But Chetcuti was quick to point out that there is a significant difference in the amount of proof required to be found by the sporting disciplinary bodies and the law courts against an indicted person.
He said: “In a law court, a person is found guilty of a particular charge if he is proven to have committed the crime beyond reasonable doubt. On the other hand, a sporting disciplinary body needs only to have comfortable satisfaction that the crime took place to find a person guilty.”