The Sliema Wanderers Youth Nursery launched the Sliema Wanderers Community Football project and a nursery section dedicated for girls during a press conference which was held at the Sliema Wanderers Complex in Tigne on Wednesday.
Sliema Wanderers president Keith Perry said that the nursery went through drastic changes over the past months but now his dream to have the nursery an integral part of the club was becoming a reality. Perry said that following the resignation of the previous committee earlier this year, the club had to act swiftly in order to put it back on track, also thanks to people like Karen Henaghan and Martin Sacco who were already serving at the nursery.
Keith Perry said that Dr Clifton Grima has been appointed as the Nursery Chairman. The choice fell on Dr Grima, who was already serving on the club’s committee, as he felt he was the right person to lead the nursery forward. A new committee was appointed and members started working hard to make the necessary changes.
The Sliema Wanderers president said that the choice of technical director was then key as they wanted someone who could dedicate himself to the club and nursery and take them to a more professional level. He said that from within the club, he felt that they already had the right man for the job in coach Stephen Azzopardi.
Keith Perry concluded by committing himself to provide more funding for the nursery to function properly and work on a more professional basis.
Nursery chairman Dr Clifton Grima said the Sliema Nursery, being one of the oldest nurseries on the island, for some time had no rivals but then had to deal with big challenges especially with regards to facilities as other nurseries in the area could attract more children with better facilities.
Dr Grima said unfortunately there was a big gap between the senior club and the nursery and the new committee worked hard so that now the club and the nursery are working as one single unit with complete synergy between the two parties.
The Nursery Chairman said that now under the current set-up, all the children in the nursery up to the players in the senior squad fall under the responsibility of technical director Stephen Azzopardi.
The club invested heavily in the pitch and thanks to the support of the Malta Football Association, the pitch at the Tigne Complex has been upgraded and now hosts all the training sessions of the senior squad and nursery. As regards staff coaches, Dr Grima stressed that the nursery looked out for quality.
Dr Clifton Grima said that the nursery was now focussed on number of projects to be launched in the community, such as the Sliema Wanderers Community Football project.
Technical Director Stephen Azzopardi said that he had personally he had always wished to work full-time in football and he was grateful for the opportunity given to him by the club.
Azzopardi explained that the Sliema Wanderers Community Football project focusses on the social aspect – encouraging children to go and play football in a safe environment without any pressure and make friends. This programme is open for the 13 to 18 age-group – children who do not make it to the teams which compete in youth competitions or those who just want to enjoy playing football.
Sessions will be held on Wednesday and Saturdays and will be led by two qualified coaches. Karen Henaghan, who had worked in Ireland in youth football and is now living in Malta, has been appointed as Head of Community Football.
The Sliema Wanderers Community Football project is open to all children and those attending do not have to register with the nursery.
Another initiative of the Sliema Wanderers Youth Nursery is the launch of the Sliema Wanderers Girls’ Nursery. This girls’ only section is open for girls aged from four to fifteen. Coaches Karen Henaghan, Andrew Azzopardi and Raina Giusti will be in charge of the girls’ nursery.
An Open Day for girls intending to play football will be held on Saturday between 10:00 and 12:00. In fact the nursery is hoping to increase the number of girls attending the nursery.
The Sliema Nursery is also hoping to help schools organise extra-curricular sessions in football for girls after school hours.