The Youth FA introduced new regulations thanks to which children of irregular immigrants can now participate in the leagues and festivals organised by the Youth FA.
Children aged six to sixteen who entered Malta as illegal immigrants and are recognised as such by the government will be granted a special permission (FSR Special Permission Form) to take part in Youth FA competitions as from season 2012/13.
A team may have up to two players with such status on the field of play during the APS Bank Leagues and Under-13 Inhobb il-Futbol Events.
Such players are free to move from one nursery to another but only at the end of the season.
According to the approved regulations, no compensation could be paid and no gifts could be presented by a nursery to such players in order to join them. This could lead a nursery to be expelled from the competition.
Photos: Copyright © Joe Borg
Youth FA President Fr Hilary Tagliaferro said although many were aware of problems irregular immigrants may bring, the Youth FA was not aware of the problem regarding children of illegal immigrants who were willing to play football. For this reason, the association approached the MFA in order to try to find a solution for this problem.
Fr Hilary said the association believed children had a right to play as per the charter of the United Nations. He said that if such children were not being provided this opportunity, the association would not be fulfilling its duties.
The Youth FA president said the association’s main objective was always that of educating children through sports -something which is constantly stressed in meetings with nurseries. He said that the inclusion of such children would also help in the education of children attending nurseries.
Fr Hilary said that regulations required certain documents from children to be able to register with a nursery. Now that this problem has been solved, the association was opening its doors to all children. Before children could only train with a nursery and was not able to play in leagues and festivals.
He augured that after obtaining this special permission for children of irregular immigrants, nurseries would try to obtain the necessary documents in order for these players to be able to register properly once they are over the age of sixteen.
Fr Hilary suggested that in a small country like Malta, we should not miss the opportunity of finding promising talents among these children.
He concluded by saying that this was the association’s social responsibility as this could help the society change its mentality with regards to illegal immigrants. The Youth FA was always at the forefront in issues of social responsibility and twelve years ago, had issued a document on child abuse aimed at educating coaches and nursery administrators.
Parliamentary Secretary forYouth and Sport Clyde Puli praised this initiative and said this was social responsability in practice. He said children had the right to play and the right for education and the basic human rights state that there should be no kind of discrimination.
Puli said this initiative promotes social integration and respect. First and foremost, we should give these rights to all while respecting the integrity of each person. Referring to the possibile identification of talents, the Parliamentary Secretary said that a challenge was being converted into an opportunity.
Opposition Spokesperson for Sport and Local NGOs Chris Agius also praised the MFA and Youth FA for putting social responsibility in practice. He said that associations could continue working on this matter so that eventually such permission could be granted to players over the age of sixteen.
Agius said that football unites people and this initiative could help society integrate more irregular immigrants.
The Chairperson of the Refugee Service at the Emigrants Commission Carmelo Mifsud thanked the Youth FA for this initiative. He said the arrival of illegal immigrants brought new realities and their children could not play with local nurseries.
Mifsud said that the commission made a request to the Youth FA and the latter accepted this request. He said that thanks to football, the society could accept more these immigrants.
He revealed that out of around 1,400 immigrants which arrived in Malta in 2012, there were 127 boys and 28 girls aged 16 to 18 and 57 boys and 16 girls under the age of sixteen.
MFA Chief Executive Officer Bjorn Vassallo said with this initiative, the Youth FA was giving a clear message. He said that it was of great satisfaction for him personally and for the MFA to achieve this, saying that although it was not easy, this was a good step forward.
Vassallo said football attracts millions of people around the world and gives a sense of unity. He said that intergration of culture was something positive which all have to adapt to. A moral and ethical challenge for which one had to obtain a consensus on.
The MFA CEO said that the association, the Youth FA and the authorities are committed to keep working in this direction so that society continues to benefit from such initiatives. He said that over the past months, the association in collaboration with the Sports Promotion Unit and the Youth FA, a number of projects were launched to the benefit of all children, including those with special needs.