Play Football Live Football project promotes inclusion of refugees

Play Football Live Football is the name of the third project undertaken by the Malta Football Association to promote and facilitate the integration and social inclusion of refugees as well as Maltese nationals encountering difficulties to integrate in the community. 

This project, which is intended for men, women and children, is funded by the European Union as part of its programme to promote sport as a tool for integration and social inclusion. The EU has allocated €250,000 over two years for Play Football Live Football which was launched on Monday during a press conference held at the Trophies Lounge.

This project, which will fall under the Malta FA’s Football Social Responsibility programme ‘Football for Life’ which has been going on for a number of years, will seek to build on the positive results achieved in the first two social inclusion initiatives – Include Me & I Will Understand and All In All For Football which have have seen the participation of over 1,500 persons and a host of football clubs.

Project co-ordinator Peter Busuttil said such projects were very important for the association since they help reach out to particular sectors of the society – the vulnerable and those who avail themselves of the services provided by government agencies such as Appoġġ. He added that although these projects are meant particularly for the inclusion of refugees, vulnerable people in Malta also benefit from these projects.

Busuttil added that the main milestones of this project, apart from the participation of around 500 people in the activities for the first time, will be the set-up of five amateur football teams, financed by the MFA, to participate in amateur leagues. Last year, there was another team which was formed and took part in the MAFA League, featuring players from Somalia, Nigeria, Ghana, Syria, Palestine, Sudan and Malta. The five teams will be affiliated with football clubs who will support them through the project with facilities, coaches and volunteers.

Peter Busuttil added that this year, a football festival was due to be held every two months but since it had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an extension was requested and was now granted and these festivals will kick-off in July. There will be twelve festivals over two years. He said that in Gozo, there is already a team of 20 refugees, being supported by Sannat Lions.

The MFA’s project was one of only nine projects which were approved. Apart from these projects, other projects in which the association was a partner focus on the environment, gender equality, literacy, etc.

Peter Busuttil added that another milestone for the association was the fact that until a few months ago, in most cases, within 24 hours of their arrival, refugees would start participating in one of the association’s projects – playing football three or four times a week where they would be given the kits and football shoes apart from having qualified coaches. Around 100 or 150 would then be invited for match-day activities for Premier League or national team matches.

MEUSAC Director – EU Funding, Darren Grasso, said that MEUSAC supports any sports organisation in applying for EU funds, both in terms of developing a project and the actual application. He said these funds were coming directly from the European Commission and targeted integration. He said that another popular programme was the Erasmus+ which aims to support European partnerships on grassroots sport – funds for which are set to increase. He concluded by encouraging organisations and clubs to apply for such programmes.

The Malta FA’s FSR projects are endorsed and supported by UEFA as part of its Refugee and Inclusion projects and are also recognised by FIFA. The All In All For Football project was one of the six shortlisted candidates for the 2019 FIFA Diversity Award.