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MFA to collaborate with MCAST for grassroots study

Members from the Malta Football Association, Ministry of Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation, and MCAST speak to a press conference on Saturday. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

FunFit 5 a step further for Fondazzjoni Inhobb il-Futbol

The Malta Football Association will be collaborating with educational institution MCAST as well as the Ministry of Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation for a pilot project called ‘FunFit5’, a research study carried out throughout this scholastic year that sees students from six to nine years old getting daily 45-minute PE lessons from Monday to Friday.

Speaking to a press conference on Saturday, Malta FA General Secretary Dr Angelo Chetcuti emphasised that through the association’s grassroots branch Fondazzjoni Inhobb il-Futbol, such a project can reap benefits both to the individual as well as the community as a whole.

“It is very satisfactory for us at the Malta football association to have a line-up of partners because, in initiatives like this, none of us alone can be as impactful as when we collaborate,” Chetcuti told the press conference.

“This is why we came up with the Fondazzjoni Inhobb il-Futbol. It is because we felt we should have an organ and a number of people who are focused on grassroots. It is part of our strategy including our aim of fostering social change. This entails the culture of sport and even though football is at the heart of society, it is not enough and so we believe our presence in schools is crucial, not only for football but also for the wellbeing of everyone.

“We would be happy even if through fun fit football, a child ends up playing another sport. Of course, we can’t do this alone. It needs equipment and coaches, and in our case, these resources come from UEFA and FIFA both of which have programmes for which we have been proactively one of the first to apply.

“I preach constantly that decisions should be taken as a result of evidence. I’m sure we don’t need anybody to prove to us that sport is beneficial for our wellbeing – that’s a given, but it needs some kind of backing. Research exists but we wanted to see something on a domestic level because, in this way, we can go in front of decision-makers whom I believe share our values already. As we’ve done in the past, we have carried out studies about investment in football that gives results that can be quantified. I believe the return is both on an individual level and also for the community as a whole.”

Former Malta international Gareth Sciberras, who now leads the Malta FA’s grassroots foundation said that this is exactly what it had been set up to do and the response from all stakeholders has always been positive.

“This is a beautiful moment for us at the foundation. We are a voluntary organization that has been around for just a year and we stem from the MFA’s vision to create a place for emphasis on our children,” Sciberras explained.

“We have a lot of projects going on, including the hubs project which pairs up an elite pool of young players with international-level coaches. Now we’re going into other areas of football like beach soccer and futsal and more importantly, we are entering schools for projects like this.

“We started with Funfit football and the response was great, almost overwhelming and so we came up with an idea to do more, through something which is tangible. There are many people involved and together with MCAST, we have launched the FunFit 5.

“The word ‘football’ has been left out this time as, even though we are a football community, we want to show that activity and exercise are important to various aspects of our lives.”

Read: Children to exercise daily throughout scholastic year, part of research project

MCAST principal Profs James Calleja spoke highly of the project as a group of researchers led by Dr Melanie Darmanin will be carrying the study from October to May.

“I’m very happy that MCAST is part of this project but the thing which I enjoyed the most was the timeline because I believe that research is not there to sit on shelves,” Profs Calleja said.

“With the collaboration of the ministry for education, something concrete – six to nine-year-olds – this means the footballers of the future – We need to start as early as possible to expose children to sport.

“COVID-19 did not help but now we need to put aside that laptop and let the children play and enjoy themselves – this is how they can start to love sport.

“This research goes well with our aims as a community college which means that everything we do must have an impact and so this research must be applied. The greatest challenge is promoting this in the media. I have already given my blessing to this research and with the support of the government, we can make it.”

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