Mifsud makes family proud by winning Malta cap

Louis Mifsud is still getting used to the fact that he is now an international rugby player having made his debut for Malta recently.

The popular back-row forward played the full 80 minutes of the 24-14 victory over Cyprus in Limassol in the European Rugby Conference and became only the second player to win an international cap while with Bournville.

It was a whirlwind weekend for Mifsud and it is only now that he has started to appreciate what he achieved.

“The whole experience happened so quickly. We had a small camp in the two days before the game and then went straight into the match and then it was straight back into work and normal life so it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Mifsud said

“I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity. To start and play the full 80 was fantastic. You want to be on the pitch as long as you can when you have gone all that way.

“I was first recommended to Malta a couple of years ago. I had a conversation with their the coach but Covid was still an issue so I just got my head down and focused on my rugby here. At the time I was playing for Coventry.

“A few months ago I got back in touch with Malta and said that I was still interested. I then had a Zoom call with Keith Hopkins, the new Malta coach, and we had a good chat. He got know me and I got to know him.

“Keith is very ambitious for what he wants the team to do. He wants to build a young squad of up-and-coming players and I want to be involved with that.

“They had been monitoring me for a while. They sent someone to watch me and then Keith himself came over to have a look when we played Chester.

“I then got invited into a group chat of a wider squad of 60-odd players. Then there was another group chat in which they said:  congratulations. This is the 23 man squad we are looking to take to Cyprus.

“I went in with an open mind. I didn’t know whether I would be coming on for the last 20 minutes or whether I’d be starting. I wasn’t sure. My main focus was just to go out there and give it my best, which I did in the short training camp that we had and I think that worked.”

Mifsud qualifies to play for Malta through his paternal grandparents – both of whom watched the Cyprus match on the live stream – while his father, other close family and a surprise supporter from Bournville made the trip to Limassol.

“I had a few members of my family – my dad, my girlfriend, my little sister and my godfather – out there. Then I got a surprise from Ben Meakin and a few of my friends who also came out which was really lovely,” he said.

“They surprised me. I had no idea they were coming so that was a bit of a shock – but a nice one – when I saw them in the stands.

“Other members of the family got together over here and watched it on live stream. There was a massive amount of pride there and I think it brought a bit of tear to my grandad’s eye.

“Me representing the country where he came from was a big thing for him and for my grandma.”

Mifsud’s first international cap and shirt will be framed and be proudly displayed on the wall at home but his next will be given to Bournville for display in the Avery Fields clubhouse.

When that will be remains to be decided. Malta are due to play Israel home and away in their next matches in the competition but no dates have been confirmed and security concerns following the situation in Gaza mean that they may have to be cancelled.

“I’m not sure whether they are going to go ahead because of the situation in Israel. Their security requirements are so complex so there is talk of a potential play-off with the league above,” Mifsud said.

“I’m going to have my first cap and playing shirt framed. I thought I would keep those and get it on the wall. But the next one will be going to the club for sure.”

By then Mifsud will have had time to brush up on his Maltese so that he can sing the national anthem along with his new international team-mates, the majority of whom play their rugby in England’s National Leagues or the Welsh Premiership.

“Unfortunately, my Maltese isn’t too fluent. I’m still learning it so I hummed along to the national anthem,” he said.

“But it was just as impactful. Malta is a big part of my heritage. Having the opportunity to represent a country that I visited many times as a kid and have fond memories of and that my grandparents grew up in and my dad and auntie often visited was a very special moment.

“To know that they were watching either there or on the live stream was going through my head. I wanted to make them more proud and to do a good job for them.”


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