The Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation (IFF) partnered up with BNF Bank to celebrate the contribution and achievements of the teams that took part in the 2021-22 BNF National Leagues in the Under-17, Under-15 and Under-14 categories.
The winning teams, promoted sides, top scorers and Fair Play award winners took centre-stage at the Awards Night, held last Thursday at the Centenary Hall, with Pietà Hotspurs and Valletta topping the bill as winners of Section A of the BNF National U-17 and U-15 Leagues respectively.
Awards were also given to the winners and promoted teams in the other sections in both leagues, namely:
Under-17: Section B – Hibernians (winners), Naxxar Lions (promoted); Section C – Sirens (winners), Mġarr United (promoted); Section D – Żejtun Corinthians (winners), Siġġiewi (promoted).
Under-15: Section B – Żurrieq Wolves YN (winners), Gozo (promoted); Section C – Lija Athletic (winners), Żebbuġ Rangers (promoted) Section D – Rabat Ajax (winners), Siġġiewi (promoted).
In line with the Malta FA Technical Centre’s guidelines, no trophies were awarded in relation to the BNF National Under-14 Development League but the participating nurseries received a certificate of participation on Thursday.
Għargħur and Tarxien Rainbows were announced as winners of the Fair Play Award in the U-15 and U-17 leagues respectively.
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Thursday’s event also served as an ideal occasion to further promote the values of fair play, teamwork and integrity with former Malta players Gareth Sciberras and Michael Galea, Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the IFF respectively, encouraging the young players to uphold these values and enjoy playing the game at all times.
“My message to you is to always do your best, give your 100 per cent but do so by honouring the values of sportsmanship, fair play and integrity which are at the heart of the IFF work,” Galea said.
Regarded as the pioneer of youth football in Malta, Fr Hilary Tagliaferro, the Honorary President of the Youth FA, offered a fitting introduction to Thursday’s event, delivering an insightful speech about the development of youth football in Malta, from the Inħobb il-Futbol scheme days in the early eighties up until today.
“The phrase ‘Inħobb il-Futbol has a story,” Fr Hilary said. “When, after 10 years, I finished coaching Hibernians, I still had this passion for football running in my blood… I just couldn’t stay idle. I came up with the idea of establishing a national sports centre in a central location where we could train the best football players and best athletes in other sport.
“I approached the then Minister of Sports and President of the Republic, putting forward my idea to create a national school of sport at what was then still known as ‘il-Marsa tal-Ingliżi’. The idea was well received but I was told that we could only use the venue twice a week. We had around 400 athletes at the time.”
Fr Hilary recounted how the introduction of the Inħobb il-Futbol programme, the foundation of the Youth FA and the opening of the first youth nurseries in the early eighties were key moments in the history of youth football in Malta.
“In 1982, we moved to the first turf football pitches in Ta’ Qali, I was appointed Technical Director of the Malta Football Association and we also founded the Youth FA,” Fr Hilary said. “It was during this period that we created the Inħobb il-Futbol Scheme and the first youth nurseries were formed, based on the Inħobb il-Futbol model. We started with around 10 youth nurseries but now almost every town and village has a youth football nursery.”
BNF BANK SUPPORT
George Debono, Chief Commercial Officer of BNF Bank, praised the dedication and passion of all the stakeholders in youth football, adding: “With the sterling work being done by everyone, I am confident that we will succeed in our mission to nurture the love for football among our youths. BNF Bank is willing to keep supporting this movement.”
In his address, Ivan Woods, the IFF Grassroots Manager, said the Awards Night is the culmination of a season of footballing emotions, with all the highs and lows, in the BNF National Junior Leagues which saw the participation of over 2,000 players.