Muscat gets the call from Malta

THE fledgling football career of Wellington Phoenix defender Manny Muscat continues to go from strength to strength, with confirmation of his selection to represent Malta in a World Cup qualifier and an international friendly.

Brought into the Phoenix from Victorian Premier League side Green Gully as a short-term injury replacement for the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season, Muscat quickly seized his chance to prove his worth at right back in the Phoenix-s defensive line.

Such were the quality of the 25-year-old-s performances during the Phoenix-s successful campaign that he was rewarded with a fulltime professional contract for the 2009/10 season.

Now, after catching the attention of the Malta selectors, he is relishing the opportunity to play international football for the home country of his mother and father.

Muscat will join the Malta squad in Valletta for a training camp later this month in preparation for an international friendly against hosts the Czech Republic on June 6 and a World Cup qualifier against Sweden in Gothenburg on June 11.

“It (selection) came completely out of the blue and was a real surprise,” Muscat said. “It-s just amazing to get the call-up to represent Malta. The Phoenix gave me the opportunity to play top-level football and I-m incredibly grateful. I-ve worked hard to grab that opportunity with both hands.”

Muscat will be released by the Phoenix on May 28 and will travel to Malta to join his new teammates. His aim is to make the final playing squad for the matches against the Czech Republic and Sweden.

“Last year was an amazing year for me with the Phoenix and this is a little bit unreal. It-s all quite new but I-ll just do what I always do and play to the very best of my ability.”

Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata said everyone involved at the club was thrilled for Muscat.

“It-s a fantastic opportunity for Manny to be able to play international football at that level against some of the best players in the world.”

Muscat-s rapid elevation to international level was a credit to the player-s commitment to the Phoenix, Pignata said.

“We plucked him out of the VPL with Green Gully and gave him the opportunity. He did very well and has got a fulltime contract this season. He-s worked hard and he deserves it – he-s the type of guy who is level-headed and has demonstrated his desire to excel.”