Central Coast Mariners midfielder John Hutchinson has been rewarded for his consistent A-League form over four seasons with a call up to the national team of Malta, who will continue their World Cup qualifying campaign in Europe later this month.
Hutchinson is one of several players with Maltese heritage to have been identified by the Maltese Football Association in a bid to strengthen the quality of their national team, which occupies a modest 150th place in the most recent edition of the FIFA World Rankings.
Born and raised in country Victoria, Hutchinson’s grandmother emigrated to Australia from Malta several decades ago – thus qualifying the Mariners' midfield ace for international recognition by his ancestral country.
Hutchinson is now in Malta having cut short his off-season break and could line up for the Knights of St. John in a friendly international against the Czech Republic in Jablonec on Friday of this week before backing up to face Sweden in a World Cup qualifier in Gothenburg on Wednesday, 10 June.
"I’m delighted to have been given this opportunity by the Maltese FA and their coach Dusan Fitzel and I’m really looking forward to what is a fantastic opportunity and a great challenge in new and exciting surrounds," said Hutchinson.
"I’m a very proud Australian and will always be, though I am equally as proud of my Maltese heritage and will wear the jersey of Malta with the pride, honour and respect that it deserves."
Should Hutchinson’s initial stint in red and white be a successful one, the glamour fixtures that await the 29-year-old would make his CV the envy of all of his A-League peers.
Sweden will again face Malta in early September, before Hutchinson lines up against reigning FIFA World Player of the Year and Manchester United kingpin Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal on 14 October.
Malta are out of the running for a place at next year’s showpiece in South Africa. However, Czech-born coach Fitzel is determined to ensure that his side complete their World Cup qualifying campaign on a positive note, having failed to find the back of the net in seven qualifying matches to date while registering just one draw in the process.
With the likes of Wellington Phoenix defender Manny Muscat and Hutchinson now on board to bolster a line up that is headlined by England-based strike pairing Daniel Bogdanovic and Michael Mifsud, Malta are hopeful of an affirmative conclusion to their tenth World Cup qualifying campaign.
"We extend our congratulations to John for his selection and, like him, eagerly look forward to the opportunities that await him and his Maltese team-mates in the coming weeks and months," said Mariners executive chairman Lyall Gorman.
"Such experiences in a new environment will only serve to better John’s development on and off the pitch and we’re of course delighted to see a Mariners representative mixing it with some of the luminaries of world football."