686 girls across Malta have managed to kickstart a lifelong love of football through a ground-breaking Playmakers football programme from UEFA and Disney. The first phase of the UEFA Playmakers program has just finished, and 30 different groups participated. Groups vary from Girl guides, state schools, private and church schools, Malta and Gozitan football clubs. The program is being cordinated by the Malta FA’s Women Department which falls under the Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation.
Using Disney’s world-renowned storytelling and inspired by academic research showing the positive role of storytelling in helping children take up sport, Playmakers aims to increase the proportion of girls meeting the World Health Organization’s minimum standards for physical activity – currently, just 16%.
Targeting 5–8-year-old girls not currently playing football, Malta joined 22 other UEFA national associations in committing to roll out Playmakers through schools, clubs and local communities. More associations are expected to introduce the programme in the coming years.
Movement, teamwork, imagination
Unlike traditional football programmes, each of Playmaker’s ten initial training sessions follow the narrative of billion-dollar global box office smash hits like Disney’s Frozen II and Disney and Pixar’s Incredibles 2 and now even Moana. Equipped with footballs, bibs and cones, trained coaches encourage participants to play the roles of popular characters, such as Elastigirl and Elsa and Anna, bringing the films’ action scenes to life through movement, teamwork and their imagination.
Pierre Brincat, the Malta FA’s director of Women Football gave the details of the first phase in a press launched that was held at the Centenary Stadium. ‘We are honoured to be part of this programme and that it is helping us open the doors to more girls to play the beautiful game of football.’
‘Research shows that by taking a story-led approach to coaching, and by being collaborative and non-competitive, interest in participation increases. Our coaches are committed to embracing the programme and we look forward to rolling out sessions across the country,’ said Pierre Brincat.
Creating an environment for girls to flourish
In its early sessions, Playmakers focuses on building girls’ confidence in their movement, encouraging creative thinking and communicating easily with their friends. Later sessions introduce girls to basic football skills, but the programme continues to put the emphasis on making sport fun.
Gareth Sciberras, ex national team player and Chairperson of The Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation said that ‘the important thing in this program is to have fun and be active. The fact that it is done by playing football is a plus.’
‘This latest initiative reminds me of when I was younger and I am glad that we are offering such opportunities to our children. We did not have such opportunities at that time, something I would have loved to have been part of.’
Time for Action
The aim behind the Playmakers represents a first step toward achieving one of the main goals of “Time for Action” the UEFA Women’s Football Strategy – to double girls’ and women’s participation in football by 2024.