BALZAN FOOTBALL ACADEMY
The founders of the Balzan Youths Football Club wanted to be able to select promising young players to represent them in football competitions. In the club’s team history there had always been a strong component of young players but over the years the average age of the players had begun to increase. This was not a true reflection of the club’s name.
Many notable players have graduated from the Balzan Youths Football Nursery to play with the Balzan Youths Football Club first team. Amongst them were: Kevin Curmi, Antonello Vidal, Omar Cassar, Adrian Ellul, Kenneth Balzan, Malcolm Spiteri, Derek Curmi, David Agius, Marlon Monreal, Victor Micallef, David Mamo, Simon Mizzi, Wayne Muscat and others like Lydon Micallef, Michael Borg and Daniel Cassar are adding experience from playing for the first team of Balzan Youths Football Club.
Late in the football season 1990-1991, through the initiative of Emmanuel Cassar, the Balzan Youths Football Club’s committee focussed on initiating their own Football Nursery. During this season a temporary sub-committee made up of main committee members and a few outsiders, was formed to begin organising the formation of a Football Nursery. The Chairman on this sub-committee was Frank Monreal and supporting members included Alphonse Saliba, Joe Saliba, Gejtu Psaila, Raymond Scicluna, Alfred Curmi and Emmanuel Borg. Their main problem was selecting the right people to run the Nursery. In the meantime, they started registering youngsters from age 14 to 16 and successfully participated in the U/16 League of the Youth Football Club of that season. The young players were coached by Mario Monreal and Gejtu Psaila.
The sub-committee did select the appropriate people to run the Nursery and by next season, in 1991-1992, the Balzan Youths Football Nursery was inaugurated. The Nursery was managed by a sub-committee composed of John Spiteri as its first President, with Mario Monreal as Vice President, Joe Cremona as first secretary and Anthony Lanzon as his assistant. Gejtu Psaila served as the first Treasurer and Frank Monreal was delegated to act as a liaison officer between the main club and the Nursery. Their first task was to start registering boys between 7 and 16 years of age and to take part in the U/14 and U/16 Leagues as well as the “Inhobb il-Futbol” (I love football) scheme organised by the Youth Football Association. The Nursery also participated in tournaments organised in Alcamo (Sicily) with the U/10 team and later during the same season in Acireale (Sicily) with the U/14 team. This sub-committee quickly got the nursery running by successfully participating in all the major competitions.
Another important milestone achieved was to establish its own operational premises, which was built in the Balzan / Lija football ground. In the first year of operation the sub-committee launched their first Nursery logo, which showed a young player, wearing the Balzan Youths FC kit, emerging from an egg, thus symbolising the birth of the Balzan Youths Football Nursery. From their first season onward the Nursery never looked back, each year growing in membership and support. The Balzan Youths Football Nursery is now recognised as one of the established nurseries on the Island and always participates in every competition organised by the Youth Football Association.
In season 1993-1994 the under 14 team emerged winners of the Under 14 Section “C” League organized by the Youth Football Association.
In season 1995-1996, five years after the Nursery was launched and when the senior team was relegated to the Third Division, was a turning point for the Balzan Youths FC committee of that time to take the opportunity to start utilising the talent from their football nursery. They began introducing young players in the field of play together with established players.
The committee members already mentioned continued to give their services and over the years other members, such as Richard P Agius and Tony Camilleri, have given their support.
In season 1996-1997 the under 14 team emerged winners of the Under 14 Section “D” League organized by the Youth Football Association.
During the 2000-2001 season the management of the Nursery passed to a new subcommittee, made up of George Borg as President (also Vice President of Balzan Youths Football Club), Joe Saliba as Vice President, Oliver Borg as Secretary and Frank Monreal as Treasurer, with Alfred Attard and Kevin Sciberras as supporting members.
In season 2000-2001, the Nursery took part in every competition organised by the Youth Football Association. This was an exceptional season where the U/16 and U/14 teams finished as Champions of Section “C” in their respective Leagues and were consequently promoted to Section “B” League. The U/12 team competed in football festivals and won most of the games. The U/11 team won tournaments organised by Valletta FC and Msida FC and took part in a football tournament organised in Wales with 19 teams participating, where they finished in a very respectable 6th place.
In season 2001-2002, ten years after the foundation of the Balzan Youths Football Nursery, the U/14 and U/16 teams took part in Section “B” of their respective Leagues. This proved to be tough because of competitiveness of the participating teams. Nevertheless they fared well with U/16 team finishing in the middle of the final classification and the U/14 team finishing in 3rd place and promoted to play in the Section “A” League.
Season 2002-2003 was a difficult one because many of the players in the U/16 team had reached their age limit as a result they were no longer eligible to play in this category. As the U/14 team now had to compete in Section “A” League against top teams comprised of the best players in their age group it was a tough season. Both the U/14 and the U/16 teams were closely monitored.
In season 2003-2004 the under 14 team was promoted to play in the Under 14 Section “A” League organized by the Youth Football Association.
In season 2006-2007 the nursery under the Presidency of Jason Degiorgio had difficulties in its management as Secretary Joe Brincat resigned. This was a disastrous season for the nursery from the management point of view and most of the work involved had to be done by the Treasurer Frank Monreal.
In season 2007-2008 the under 17 team, playing in Section “B”, was coached by Tonio Micallef and did not have a bad season and finished in sixth place. The under 15 team was trained by Kevin Sciberras and finished also in sixth place of Section “B”. As for the younger ages the nursery was finding it difficult to enrol new members.
In season 2008-2009, under the Presidency of Jesmond Scerri, the nursery made very little improvement. The under 17 team, which was coached by Kevin Sciberrras, was promoted to play in the Under 17 Section “A” League organized by the Youth Football Association. The under 15 team did not do well and was relegated to Section “C”. The difficulty to enrol new members of younger ages was still there during this season.
In season 2009-2010, Balzan Youths FC decided to take over the running of the nursery and appointed Peter Cipriott as President with all its committee members coming from the parent club committee. The under 17 team coached by Kevin Sciberras found it difficult in Section “A” playing against more experienced team and had to bow their head and were relegated to play in Section “B” . The under 15 team, coached by Vince Laus finished 5th in the final classification. The nursery was still finding difficulty to increase the number of the low age bracket members. During this season the ground project was initialized.
In season 2010-2011, under the same Presidency, the under 17 team had some difficulties and had to fight hard to evade relegation. They managed to do so with only two point difference from the relegated team. The under 15 team had its difficulties as well as they were coached by three different coaches when the first one Julian Mallia was replaced by Vince Laus and later on Raymond Caruana finished the job. This season the nursery had other difficulties as they did not have a place to train at the beginning of the season due to the fact that the ground project was still not finished.
In season 2011-2012, with Peter Cipriott still at the helm, the nursery started seeing the light. The Main Club Sponsor Anton Tagliaferro started taking big interest in the nursery. After having completed the ground project, the focus s turned onto having better coaches and increasing the number and quality of players attending the nursery. Silvan Ciscaldi was engaged as a Head Coach of the nursery. Mr Tagliaferro made arrangements for Ciscaldi to increase his knowledge at his own Football Academy in Sydney Australia. Apart from that he arranged to get Italian coaches Elio Garavaglia and Francesco Zanoncelli to come over to Malta to help in the building of the nursery. During this season the under 17 team, coached by Kevin Scibereas did fairly well and the next season remains to play in Section “B”. The Under 15 team coached by Charles Muscat did not do well. As for the lower age group there was very little improvment.
In season 2012-2013, Mr Tagliaferro decided to invest in our nursery and made it a point that we start taking things seriously and professionally. The first thing we did was to engage new coaches having the necessary coaching licences. Then we started investing in the under 17 team, so that Balzan FC will have its own players to play with the first team in the future. We managed to attract a good number of players from other nurseries, where some of them have been called to play with the National under17 team. Mr Tagliaferro is also planning to get a full time International coach to assist the nursery. He intends to send some of our players to have professional training sessions with an Italian Team. As soon as the nursery started to operate we saw an increase of young players enrolling with our nursery and this is very encouraging. We are now concentrating on building a better under15 team and also improving the Minors team.