May 19 2013 Latest news:
By Sam Russell
Friday, March 15, 2013
A warehouse worker got more than he bargained for when enjoying a holiday kick-about in sunny Malta.
For unbeknown to Burgh Castle lad Louis Cutajar, a Maltese football scout was watching on as he knocked a ball around with his cousins.
One thing led to another, and now the 20-year-old has an offer to join the national under-21s squad - with the senior side within reach.
He was spotted in September last year, and already has his eye on UEFA Euro 2016 qualifiers this summer.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said the former Cliff Park High School student. “I’ve already had a game for Malta against the amateur Italian side.
“The scout said he liked what he saw and said ‘get your passport sorted’, so when that goes through they’re going to offer me a contract and I will negotiate a deal.”
The contract would be with domestic Maltese squad Hibernians FC - who play in the country’s top flight - and would provide a platform for regular football with the national team.
Louis, who lives in Back Lane, is eligible for the national team as his paternal grandfather is Maltese.
And he said the sequence of events leading to his national team call-up was sparked by his cousin Patrick, who organised the five-a-side match while Louis was on holiday.
While Malta is not renowned for its football - and has never qualified for World Cup or European Championship football - Louis said it is on its way up.
“Malta has come on quite a lot in the last 10 years,” he revealed. “Back then the players had other jobs whereas now they pay well enough to play four or five times per week.
“If all goes well the next step would be the senior team.”
And with a population of more than 450,000, a national call-up does not come easily.
Louis said the whole experience has been surreal - not least because his team mates all speak Maltese.
“It was a little bit awkward at the start,” he smiled. “They do speak good English but in the changing room they do speak Maltese so I couldn’t join in with the banter but now they know my face and my name.
“It’s been OK on the pitch.”
He has played football all his life, training with Norwich academy until the age of 16 then at Lowestoft Town and Diss, where he is still a player.
And Louis, who plays in a left wing and left back position, has been getting plenty of stick from his fellow players.
“Before one game with Diss they played the Maltese national anthem and made me stand up in the middle of the dressing room,” he said wearily. “I’d only heard it once or twice before.
“They’ve been really supportive, excited and stuff - as team mates should be - so I’m chuffed with their reaction.”
His dad Andy, 51, said the call-up means a lot to the family due to their Maltese heritage, and has enthused Louis about football again.
“After leaving Lowestoft his mind went off it a little and this has kicked him into gear again,” said Andy.
He said they have many relatives in Malta and grinned: “We get calls saying ‘they’ve just mentioned him on sports news in Malta!’”
And Louis hopes it will be the start of a career in professional football, noting scouts from Everton have tracked players at Hibs.
He added his girlfriend, his dad Andy, mum Shirley, three sisters and a brother and all the rest of the family are proud of him.
Nearly 3,000 people have supported a Facebook campaign demanding safety improvements on the A47 near Dereham set up after the latest fatal crash.
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