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Malta FA’s Football Social Responsibility Department keen to raise awareness on social issues

Football Social Responsibility Director Peter Busuttil (right) discussing activities held during the UEFA U-19 Championship finals with UEFA official Zvonimir Boban (left) and MFA president Bjorn Vassallo.

The Malta FA through its Social Responsibility Department (FSR) has been working hard to raise awareness of various social problems on our islands and uses the ‘Beautiful Game’ to provide a better opportunity for inclusion.

To this aim, for the past few years, the Malta FA Social Responsibility Department has looked towards EU funding to engage with the community of football, and create projects towards social responsibility through football.

“We believe that the aspect of social responsibility is not about creating footballers,” Peter Busuttil director of the Malta FA Social Responsibility Department, told the Times of Malta.

“It’s all about bringing football closer to the community. In our projects, participants do not necessarily have to become professional football players, but we use football as a means of social communication, social interaction and social inclusion at all levels.”

Busuttil said that his department works a lot with persons in detention centres in Malta. Through the project Crossbar, they have formed an amateur team, called Liedna Fgura FC, which is entirely formed by refugees and foreign nationals and has participated in the Swan League.

Added to that this year they are going to field a women’s team in the futsal league, named Parr Mela Rockets.

“The success of these projects is reflected in being awarded refugee grants from UEFA and our participation in the Unity Euro Cup, which was held in Frankfurt, Germany,” Busuttil added.

The elderly people is another area in the society that is being targeted through a project in conjuction with the Ministry of the Elderly and funded by UEFA.

“This project goes through three phases,” Busuttil said.

“Firstly, we visit the elderly people and hold social networking sessions. Then, we get the elderly people to the stadium so that they can visit the Malta FA Museum and watch a game at the National Stadium.

“And the third phase is planned for next year where we are planning to introduce a new format of the game, Walking Football, which will be open not only for the elderly but for everyone interested to practice.”

The Family Football project is based in the community with the participation of several clubs in Malta and Gozo such as Naxxar Lions, Kirkop United, Fgura United, Qormi, Għarghur, St George’s Xgħajra, Mdina Knights, Luqa St Andrews and Sliema Wanderers among others.

“We use these clubs as a hub to engage with families using football,” Busuttil said.

“Our coaches go to the community once a week and carry out a functional training activity, which includes physical and football training. During these sessions we also promote all our other projects that are being funded by the EU.”

Domestic violence is another issue on which awareness is being created.

The project Goal Score, which is funded by the European Union, engages with women’s players and coaches to create awareness and holds training sessions for players and members of the technical staff to tackle domestic violence.

“The project includes both practical and academic sessions with a number of clubs and is also open to other local communities that would like to get engaged in this social learning,” Busuttil said.

Learning issues

Children with learning difficulties are being targeted through the EU-funded project Scale.

Students who are more inclined to practise sport rather than studying are identified in this project.

“We organise after-school activities where we engage with these students to help them create a future for themselves through football. The slogan of this project is ‘Play Hard Study Hard’ and is aimed at bringing the finer quality in a person at any age and stimulating them to continue their academic studies,” Busuttil said.

The behaviour of parents, coaches and supporters in youth matches is being looked at by the E-Play project.

The aim of this project is to educate parents, coaches and supporters to behave in the best possible way. The onus is to target physical and verbal abuse in football at a young age.

Match-fixing education is the focus of the SAMF project.

Elderly people at the National Stadium waiting for the start of a Premier League match.

The MFA, in collaboration with its integrity officer Herman Mula, are participating in this programme alongside the Portuguese FA, FIBA, the Lithuanian FA and six other sporting organisations.

“The aim of this project is to create an awareness programme based on the three Rs – Resisting, Rejecting and Reporting match-fixing,” Busuttil said.

“The MFA has just returned from a meeting on this project in Lithuania and part of the contingent were three sports ambassadors, namely Stepanie Tanti Dejardins, a waterpolo goalkeeper, fitness champion Leanne Bartolo, and former Malta coach Ray Farrugia.

“In the coming year, these ambassadors together with Herman Mula, will take part in a number of sessions to promote this project. A video has been filmed that features the experience of goalkeeper Andrea Cassar, a comic on the subject has been compiled as well as a game application.

“The main activity will be visits to schools, youth centres, sports club and the community to try and create awareness and discuss with our children how we can combat this problem together.”

The Kids for Sport project provides a set of curricula which will be used by the FSR department to engage with potential students in sports management and communications in sports.

This project is targeting students who want to get into the world of sport from a management point of view and provides 80 hours of curricula and so far 40 students have applied for it.

Radicalisation in football is tackled in the Fairer project which is aimed at creating awareness with young people, supporters and players.

“Maybe in Malta we don’t have the problem of radicalisation in football as other countries but it’s a theme that we believe we still need to raise awareness on,” Busuttil said.

“Officials from the Northern Ireland FA and the Romania FA are coming to Malta to discuss this subject in a seminar where we will create interaction between all stakeholders. Each session will be both theoretical and interactive but every part of the seminar will lead to the field of play as the football ball is always at the centre of our project.”

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