Volunteering in sport was the topic of a half-day seminar organised by the Youth Football Association at the Caritas Community Centre in Ħamrun on Saturday to commemorate 40 years of volunteering in the youth football sector.
Since its inception back in 1982, the Youth FA has always recognised and valued the vital contribution of volunteers, especially at youth football nurseries. The vast majority of the officials and administrators in youth football work on a voluntary basis and it is precisely for this reason that the Association decided to mark its 40th anniversary by hosting a seminar which also included workshops that yielded interesting insights into the current situation as well as the challenges in the volunteering sector.
Norman Darmanin Demajo, President of the Youth FA, summed up the objectives of Saturday’s well-attended seminar.
“We are celebrating an important milestone, 40 years of youth football in Malta,” Mr Darmanin Demajo said. “The purpose of the seminar is to look at the backbone of this achievement… the volunteers. I personally believe that volunteering is still very much alive but clearly times have changed and the challenges are greater.”
The Youth FA President explained that the idea to discuss the past, present and future of volunteering in youth football stemmed from responses to a questionnaire with 95 per cent of the youth nurseries identifying the lack of administrators as one of the main difficulties.
The workshops stimulated very interesting discussions about the challenges being faced by nurseries to recruit and retain volunteers, and other prevailing issues. Government incentives to attract more volunteers in sports, perceptions about the clubs’ financial situation, parent education, due diligence, and the need to increase the number of qualified educators were some of the key points reported from the workshops.
Saturday’s seminar was supported by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector and the Ministry for Inclusion, Voluntary Organisations and Consumer Rights through the Voluntary Organisations Project Scheme.
VOLUNTEERING AND VALUES
Hon. Julia Farrugia Portelli, Minister for Inclusion, Voluntary Organisations and Consumer Rights, said: “This is the beautiful mission of volunteers. Can we imagine our villages without the fundamental input of our youth football nurseries? A nation without volunteers is a nation devoid of values.”
The seminar was also addressed by Malta FA President Bjorn Vassallo who noted that the feedback from the workshops is very relevant in the current administrative context in youth football as well as at senior level, both for men and women. “The Youth FA’s mission is essentially the same as 40 years ago but the concepts have changed because the world has changed, resulting in different realities,” Mr Vassallo said.
Mr Vassallo said the Malta FA will be initiating discussions with the Youth FA and other stakeholders about a reform of the youth nurseries and academies, focusing on important aspects such as requisites and licensing.
The keynote speaker at the seminar was Liam Mc Groarty, Strategic Development Manager at UEFA who has a wealth of experience in the volunteering sector.
Mr Mc Groarty provided an overview of the volunteering situation in Europe, highlighting examples and best practices in different countries, and how this matter is being approached at club, national and government level.
During the seminar, the Youth FA also launched the first issue of its free digital magazine – ‘Football, Live It With Love!!’, intended for youth football nurseries, coaches, parents and also young footballers.
The first issue features an insightful interview with Matthew Guillaumier, one of the leading players in our country who began his football journey with a local football nursery, an interview with Fr Hilary Tagliaferro, founder and Honorary President of the Youth FA, and articles about the Association’s projects as well as initiatives by other football stakeholders that promote football among children.