An informal group of 18 youths from Sliema Wanderers Football Nursery have just returned from a week-long youth exchange visit to Ireland. The trip was co-funded by the Youth in Action Programme. In line with the Sliema Wanderers FN’s policy to assist youngsters to fully develop as individuals as well as footballers, this youth exchange project “YES: Youth Embracing Sport” was based on the philosophy that while sport can help young people develop healthy lifestyles it can also teach valuable life skills and help with an individual’s personal development process.
Led by nursery chairperson Mark Pace and project coordinators Martin Sacco and Stephanie Rocco, the youths were hosted by Dublin-based Home Farm FC, one of the leading football academies in the Irish Republic and home to Sliema Nursery coach Karen Heneghan.
During the one-week stay in Ireland the youths participated in an intense programme of events featuring sports and outdoor activities combined with other cultural and educational experiences that all drive youngsters to develop a wide range of social skills which can help become “fit for life”.
In the presence of Ms Chantal Sciberras, Chargé d’Affairs at the Embassy of Malta in Dublin, the youths were protagonists in a Maltese cultural night during which they presented the Maltese Islands as a must-visit tourist destination to the Irish hosts including both participating youths and their families. They also gave a taste of local traditional cuisine.
The youths also had the opportunity to experience and practise some Irish sports such as Gaelic Football and Hurling. After an interactive visit at Croke Park Stadium, the youths had the opportunity to meet former Prime Minister Mr Bertie Ahern at a Gaelic Football match during which he explained some techniques of the game. Mr Ahern was closely and intensely involved in Malta’s entry in the EU since Ireland held the EU Presidency during that important period in Malta’s history. The group also had a warm welcome at the Irish Parliament, the Dáil Éirenn.
This youth exchange trip also served as a team-bonding activity, particularly through a series of team-building events like the farming activity whereby the youths experienced the life of a farmer. Undoubtedly football was also featured in the trip. The Sliema WFN team under the guidance of coach Lawrence Formosa, played two football matches on natural turf against Home Farm Academy. They also had a training session led by Home Farm Academy coaches. Prominent media coverage on this exchange trip was also given on The Herald’s Suppliment ‘Striker’.
This project is co-funded by the Youth in Action Programme supported by the EU Commission