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MFA launches integration project

The Malta Football Association launched a new EU-funded project entitled ‘Live Football, Play Football’ as part of its Football Social Responsibility (FSR) agenda yesterday.

The integration project which aims to help refugees integrate through football is part of a long-term plan which involves hosting several football festivals and creating five different amateur teams over the course of the next two years.

The MFA’s FSR director Peter Busuttil said that the association will be utilising the funds which will amount to around €250,000- close to five times more than for the previous year’s project, to help these people in a way which allows them to join local clubs and their communities.

“Over the past two years, we’ve worked with over 1,500 refugees and vulnerable people. Within 24 hours of arrival, they’re playing football or taking part in a football-related activity. They’re doing this thanks to the Malta FA,” Busuttil explained.

“Part of the project we’re carrying out is to form five amateur teams. We’ve already set up the first one in Gozo to participate in the national amateur league – to play competitively.

“The next step is to look at those who just want to be part of it, maybe even administer a team.”

This is the third year the MFA has received EU funds for integration projects. Busuttil remarked that while usually the EU issues funds to around 20 organisations, this year it only chose nine, one of which was the MFA.

“We’re waiting for a result (of our application) for seven different projects while we have another four which will benefit from these funds,” he said.

“This is a great achievement for a small association such as ours when you consider the fact that we’re competing against much larger associations.

“Mostly, (the EU) looks for originality of the projects and due to the fact that we can actually carry out projects that reach out to communities, and that we are so close-knit, we tend to be more successful. That is the advantage of being such a small country. In fact, UEFA, for two years straight, complimented our projects and also gave us additional funding.”

Busuttil was accompanied by Darren Grasso, MEUSAC Director for EU funding, who said that whenever an application is set to be submitted there are a number of questions to be asked in terms of how competitive the project is.

“Something the EU looks for is how needed the project is. Obviously, refugee integration is something which is needed extensively so this serves as a plus. If there isn’t a clear need, then you’d have a problem to justify your application,” Grasso said.

The MFA has recently been nominated for a FIFA Diversity Award, in which it was the only national football association to be nominated.

Busuttil said it helps the association work better on projects which span out into the environment, gender equality, employment and life skills through football.

“Our work is not only aimed at creating footballers,” Busuttil said.

“We want them to participate in anything which has to do with football. When it comes to literacy for example, something we’re doing is creating a manual to give to the refugees so that they can learn our language through football.”

The MFA’s FSR department will also be working on areas of cultural social networking, described by Busuttil as teaching them about where they are, all through football.

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