FIFA President Sepp Blatter has recently gone on record as saying words to the effect that the future of football lies in the women’s game. One can interpret these thoughts in the sense that the fairer sex have it in them to make the sport more popular in years to come and render it more colourful in all the continents.
Indeed, women’s football has caught the imagination of millions since it started being organised globally. The skills which are normally associated with the males are now also the domain of females.
Women have added a strong dose of physical prowess to football, as well as tactical awareness evident in teamwork. Fine footwork, headwork and intelligent positioning are also conspicuous as coaches have succeeded in raising the standards of women’s football worldwide.
This progress can be seen in Malta, a small country with a population of just over 400,000 inhabitants. Teams have mushroomed all over the country and thanks to the women’s department of the Malta Football Association which operates within the association’s technical centre, women’s football has come a long way.
The country’s national team is showing signs of vitality and it is no co-incidence that Malta’s senior women’s football team have won three consecutive matches lately, a clear sign that coaches are working on the right lines.
Photos: Copyright © domenic aquilina/MFA
All this is sustained by the association’s commitment to cater for grassroots football in the women’s sector, where girls in primary schools are encouraged to take up the game and all along nursed to acquire refined technical skills.
The bedrock of this progress are the nurseries and school festivals which provide the young girls with an opportunity to play football in an atmosphere of enjoyment but at the same time within a learning environment.
These football festivals are held regularly throughout the season and attract big numbers of participants from a wide cross-section of localities in the Maltese Islands. The aim is to foster among the youngsters a love for the game.
This festival, held on the 27th December 2012 at the Centenary Stadium within the MFA’s Football Complex at Ta’ Qali, endorses the association’s commitment to promote the game further among the females and follows the success of similar events in the past years. The activity attracted 140 girls between the ages of 6 and 13 who enjoyed themselves amid a colourful Christmas atmosphere. Among these girls there were 43 complete novices to football who were not previously registered with any club. Many of these came from schools via the programmes that are being run by the MFA Technical Centre.
The festival catered for girls of different age categories and varying skills, starting with the very beginners and ending with the experienced participants. A commemorative FIFA T-Shirt was given to each girl who registered for the festival. As a form of encouragement the girls were again presented with a gift if they introduced a friend to football. The festival came to a close with the presentation of footballs to the girls who introduced a friend to football by the Malta Football Association Chief Executive Officer, Bjorn Vassallo and Robert Gatt, MFA Technical Director.
To make the activity more attractive the coaching was done by the women’s national team coaches, the MFA Girls’ Academy coaches and the women national team players together with coaches of several clubs.
The coaches were very much part of the festival, including several Malta national team players, three of whom attended the Press Conference held at the festival. Technical Director Robert Gatt stated that the MFA Technical Centre has been working very hard these last years in the Women National Team and the girls’ academies and has a total of 160 girls and Women. The MFA Technical Centre has 2 main Targets which are; to improve and strengthen the Women National Team and to attract girls to football at a very young age. To reach these objectives, the Technical Centre works on improving the National League (the MFA also provides grounds free of charge & free referees), organises an Under-16 league, organises regular seminars, provides the training grounds facilities to the women National Teams and girls Academy in the same way as is offered to the men National A Team, organises regular festivals, visits schools on a weekly basis and organises school festivals together with the relevant authorities.
In Mr. Vassallo’s address to the media he stated that the Association believes that women’s football is simply pure and echoes UEFA’s & FIFA’s beliefs that women’s football is continuously growing and with these governing bodies’ help the MFA will continue to invest heavily in women’s football.
The three players had positive comments about the activity. Kathleen Saliba drew comparisons between playing on surfaces without grass in previous years with the pitches the girls can play on nowadays. She had words of encouragement for more seasoned players and coaches to join in coaching the youngsters.
Jade Flask said that it was very satisfying for her to attend the festival with the national team players and help the young girls many of whom would be players of the future.
Dionne Tonna, another Malta national team player, was equally elated at seeing the youngsters having fun and at the same time of having the opportunity she had of teaching them. She said that in the present day footballers from the youngest ages have the advantages and amenities older players like herself did not have.
Finally, Justin Haber, Malta’s national team goalkeeper, also had praiseworthy comments for the efforts by all concerned to sow the seeds for a new crop of young female participants in the game of football.
This third festival is organised under the auspices of the Association together with FIFA’s support. Expressions of thanks are extended to FIFA for their support in this fun festival. Besides the T-Shirts, FIFA also provided footballs and bibs for the running of the event. General Soft Drinks also backed the event by providing the participants and all those present with water.
These activities are proof of the MFA’s unstinted commitment to the cause of women’s football and in consonance with what FIFA and UEFA are doing for the women’s game in the international arena.
Our association is convinced that football played by the female sex is destined to make further inroads especially with the country’s concerted efforts being channelled towards this end.
Indeed, the females’ fragrance and their enthusiasm for the sport will help the game to ignite and blossom wherever it is played.