Inquiry into ‘inappropriate conversation’ by Mangia, MFA boss defends due diligence

MFA president Bjorn Vassallo launches safeguarding inquiry into claims of sexual misconduct by national coach Devis Mangia

MFA president Bjorn Vassallo
MFA president Bjorn Vassallo

The Malta Football Association has referred a case of alleged sexual misconduct by suspended national football team coach Devis Mangia, to its safeguarding officer to be investigated.

The MFA’s executive board yesterday ratified its decision to suspend Mangia temporarily throughout the internal procedures, where safeguarding officer Andrew Azzopardi wwill investigate the allegations, gather information and compile a report about the case.

The executive was also briefed on the nature of the misconduct claims, which Vassallo said had allegedly stemmed from inappropriate conversation.

The inquiry will commence immediately.

MFA president Bjorn Vassallo said the executive will be keeping UEFA updated on the steps being taken. “The Executive Board resolved that it will leave no stone unturned in its pursuit of facts and reiterated its full trust in the association’s structures and processes... the association is always open to any form of whistleblowing and all reports of this nature are treated very seriously,” Vassallo said.

At its urgent meeting of the MFA executive, Vassallo yesterday gave a step-by-step account of the events that led to Mangia’s suspension, and that the MFA had spoken to the player involved who was immediately offered any support needed.

Two football players from the Maltese national team have come forward alleging unwanted sexual advances by suspended coach Devis Mangia.

Net News reported that mobile phone recordings of the alleged sexual misconduct will be presented to the MFA committee hearing the matter.

Mangia, 47, did not reply to MaltaToday’s request for comment, and whether the allegations were motivated by his decisions not to field certain players that could have refused his advances.

In his last two seasons in charge of Universitatea Craiova, Mangia led the team to win the Romanian Cup, and also managed to take it to the third round of the Europa League, playing against top-tier teams A.C. Milan and Redbull Leipzig. 

Mangia, who married in 2019, was already accused of entertaining intimate relations with footballers when he coached University of Craiova in Romania. The accusations were made by another former coach, Victor Pițurcă, who said Mangia had made advances to footballer Răzvan Popa when he coached the team between 2017 and 2019.

Similar accounts abound from yet another surprise departure by Mangia in 2016, from Ascoli, when the coach claimed he had to leave the club due to health problems. Mangia was however implicated in an incident that took place at a Novara hotel in May 2016 when he and another football player were reported to have left the football team’s retreat for hours on end. 

The background checks carried out by the MFA before engaging Mangia was also explained in chronological order during the executive board meeting yesterday.

“At the time, the only claim concerning Mangia was an unfounded media report in Italy going back to 2016,” Vassallo said. “The Malta FA ascertained that, at no time, there had been any disciplinary, criminal or proceedings of any other nature against Mangia at any level prior to his appointment as Head Coach of the National Teams in December 2019. It was also confirmed that his coaching licence had always been recognised and renewed accordingly.”

“It is of paramount importance that we explain the background checks undertaken by the Association prior to Mangia’s appointment. This detailed account shows that, contrary to speculation, the Malta FA was thorough in its efforts to assess the coach’s background based on official information provided by entities rather than relying on speculation.

“The fundamental point is that we have an obligation to explain everything in an open and transparent manner. We will also be doing everything in our power to protect the identity and integrity of the players concerned.”

As part of the MFA’s ‘Know Your Client’ protocol, introduced in 2017, the monitoring is ongoing and this applies to all coaching staff. In addition, the Association files a court application with the Court of Voluntary Jurisdiction on an annual basis in accordance with The Protection of Minors (Registration) Act.