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Watch: Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation driven to attract more youngsters to the Beautiful Game

Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation chairman Gareth Sciberras (centre) addressing a news conference.

It has been more than a year now that the Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation (IFF) has started to operate within the Malta Football Association with the aim of attracting more young players to the Beautiful Game.

During the past months, the IFF has embarked on several projects aimed to lure to the game children from all areas around Malta and Gozo and more importantly try to nurture the love towards football among the young ones.

Ivan Woods, the Head of Grassroots Development, spoke about the different projects that the IFF coaches have worked on in the past few months.

Ivan Woods gives an overview of the projects carried out by the Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation. Video: Jonathan Borg

“Personally, I believe that one of our biggest achievements was to enter the government schools and nurture the love towards football in our children,” Woods said.

“We have been conducting sessions in almost all government schools around the island and the reception from the children has been exceptional.”

Woods then went on to speak on the work being carried out in the Regional Hubs.

“The Regional Hubs have been another key component of the foundation as we are not only identifying new talent but we are also looking at ways to maximise it.

“Obviously there is a strong link between the Regional Hub and our Technical Centre. In fact, since September we have scouted around all nurseries in Malta and in the U-14 age group we have worked with 60 players.

“Now at the end of May, we will be setting up the first U-14 national team who will eventually go on and play two international matches in June against Lithuania.

“We have also worked at U-12 and U-13 level, and since December we had over 100 players from 20 different nurseries who have undergone 75 training sessions by the time the programme finished at the end of May.

“It’s important to note that our work is aimed at the holistic development of the players and in fact we also have sessions on nutrition and sports psychology.”

Gareth Sciberras, chairman of the Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation, sounded pleased with the work carried out by his voluntary organisation so far.

“Since the establishment of the Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation, we have set up a programme that included several proposals to try and increase the children participation in the game of football,” the former Malta skipper said.

“Added to that, we are also looking to ensure that we are open to more inclusion and also create a pathway for our young players towards elite football. 

“The IFF board is blessed to be formed by several people who have come from all sectors of professional football and boast a vast experience in the game and their knowledge will be crucial so we can create the perfect programme for our youngsters to succeed.”

On his part, Angelo Chetcuti, the Malta FA General Secretary, said that although this project is still at an early stage, he has been impressed by the work carried out by the foundation so far.

“If someone had told me that after a year and a half that this project was mentioned during the launch of the MFA strategy that we would attain so many goals in such a short term, I would have signed for that,” Dr Chetcuti said.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had several difficulties to contend with, but we still managed to do a lot of work. This is an investment for the future, and we have brought in several people who have great expertise in the sector.

“Although there is still a long way to go, I am sure that if everyone continues to be driven towards our shared goal, the future of Maltese football is very bright.”

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