In sync with its main goals and objectives set for the period between 2020 and 2024, the Malta Football Association had created the Inħobbu l-Futbol Foundation (IFF).
Launched as a Voluntary Organisation, the IFF was created as the development arm of the local governing body of football to implement a performance strategy for youth development whilst supporting various grassroots initiatives to increase player participation at all levels.
“The foundation is committed to growing and improving grassroots football whilst contributing towards a positive social change and an inclusive sporting culture,” Josie Cassar, IFF’s newly-appointed Director of Administration, told the Times of Malta.
Cassar, a former player and coach herself, was deemed as the perfect candidate to take up this role when the decision was taken back in November.
Asked about what does this new role entail, Cassar said that she will be involved in the administration of various departments that make up the foundation.
“This involves liaising closely with the Heads and their teams, and supporting the various initiatives that they run within these sections,” she said.
“Given the vast areas covered by the foundation, this is an ongoing job which requires constant attention to ensure that the many projects are running in line with our overall vision and that they reflect the values that we want to project in our work.”
Since its creation, the IFF has been running several long-term projects which will allow them to reach as many participants as possible within the various focus areas.
“A favourite project that we are about to restart in February is the UEFA Playmakers initiative which introduces girls, aged five to eight, to football through play and storytelling. Each Playmaker season uses a different Disney character to bring the game closer to the participants,” Cassar pointed out.
“Another key project is the Football Hubs. Currently, two distinct hubs have been created where two teams have been formed for the U-13, U-14 and U-15 age groups.
“Players are selected through a standard scouting process. Such scouting is ongoing to ensure that the best players are introduced to the pathway defined by the Foundation from grassroots to elite level football.”
Cassar also added that the Foundation has also contributed to the growth of Futsal through the running of the academy.
“With the dedication and commitment of the team at the academy, the passion of the fast-moving game is being introduced to more and more youths over time,” she said.
“This has seen a positive increase in the popularity of the sport with participation rates increasing each season.”
The Football in Schools programme is another project which Cassar described as an important one as it reaches over 20,000 children through over 1,200 sessions a year.
“The sessions are held every week in the various schools that have enrolled in this programme.
“We receive a lot of positive feedback from Football in Schools because the children love the time this gives them away from their school desks and parents are happy to see their children being offered a regular sporting activity without the need to drive them from one place to another after school hours,” Cassar said.
Most recently, the Foundation was also involved in a research project in collaboration with the Malta College of Arts, Science & Technology (MCAST).
The project is called Fun Fit 5 and it aimed to measure the benefits of offering Primary school children one 45-minute session of physical activity each weekday. The emphasis in the name and the activities offered were always on ‘fun’ and ‘fit’ with ‘5’ being the number of sessions per week.
Cassar revealed that the full results obtained from the Fun Fit 5 Research Study are being unveiled on February 2 during a symposium event being organised in collaboration with the Malta Football Association and the participating MCAST Research Team.
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