Maltese youngster stars at SAFC academy

by Anthony Fenton

Youngster returns to Sunderland following impressive displays.

Young Leo Agius from the Justin Haber Academy in Malta was invited back to Sunderland for the third time last week and enjoyed a week of training with SAFC’s academy coaches.

Leo, aged 11, who plays for the youth team at Floriana, Malta’s leading Premier League club, was first invited over last year and has since become a popular figure around Sunderland’s Academy of Light.

The youngster spent the week training with SAFC’s under-11 and 12 teams as part of the Black Cats’ partnership with the Justin Haber Academy.

Although a very small country, the passion for football in Malta is strong and with the support and help from SAFC, who share the club’s coaching expertise and academy football philosophy, it is hoped more youngsters will have the chance to make it in professional football.

Leo’s father Paul, who watched on as his son trained with the under- 12’s team, couldn’t hide his delight and pride at his son’s development as a player.

Paul Agius said: “It really is a fantastic opportunity for Leo to learn and train with some quality players and coaches, as a father I am very proud that he has been invited back and believe this will have a positive impact on his future development.

Paul added: “Sunderland has really rubbed off on him, he is really enjoying his football and his English has improved significantly, to the extent that he is starting to pick up the north east accent.”

SAFC Academy coach, Mark Atkinson said: “We identified Leo last year and saw that he was at a similar standard of the players we already have at the academy so we invited him back. He loves his football and his drive and termination really is evident when he plays.

“Leo is a prime example of the great work being done by the Justin Haber Academy and SAFC and we look forward to welcoming more young players as we continue our involvement”

A further group of players from the Justin Haber Academy are currently training with the club this week which includes both girls and boys who will spend time with Sunderland’s academy coaches.