If proof were needed of the effect UEFA's HatTrick assistance programme has on the infrastructural development of its member national associations, Malta provides strong testimony.
As an illustration, since he became president of the Malta Football Association (MFA) in August 2010, Norman Darmanin Demajo has been able to inaugurate six new facilities for member clubs, with a further nine projects close to completion and plenty more in the pipeline.
The MFA president sees HatTrick, which launched in 2003, as UEFA's way of "ensuring national associations focus on grassroots issues". He continued: "The MFA has realised football in our small nation can only progress if direct assistance is afforded at club level in two major areas – continued professional education and assistance in the improvement of club facilities.
"The MFA will continue to work in this direction, encouraged and assisted by the HatTrick scheme, which is an important part of the equation. HatTrick is a typical example of UEFA putting its money where its mouth is. HatTrick is also about educating clubs and associations. It is very important that UEFA has taken this role and I'm very happy to feel UEFA's backing."
HatTrick funds have been bolstering Malta's footballing infrastructure for several years, with clear benefits in terms of facilities, artificial surfaces, floodlighting and player development. Recent projects to profit from UEFA assistance are found across the Mediterranean nation, including in Birkirkara, Hamrun, Kalkara, Msida and Pembroke.
Aspiring footballers – even the very young – can use the facilities to hone their skills while also being assisted in their social and academic development. Moreover, the MFA is looking to invest in the latest technology to help coaches and players achieve optimum physical and mental conditioning.
However, just as the HatTrick funds made available to Europe's 53 national associations can pay dividends for the game's future well-being in those countries, so UEFA is keen to promote the use of funds for proper administration and good governance.
"It is very easy to succumb to pressures and deviate from the real priorities of managing the association's share of UEFA funds," said Bjorn Vassallo, the MFA chief executive. "The HatTrick programme spells out the important issues and ensures allocated funds are used in accordance with the agreed terms. These include good governance projects, which range from social initiatives to staff-related matters and continued professional education."
Football has long been Malta's favourite sport, with last year recognised as the centenary of national competition on the island. The MFA also celebrated 50 years since it joined UEFA and FIFA. Nonetheless, the Maltese governing body refuses to rest on its laurels and will continue to strive to enhance facilities with UEFA's HatTrick help.
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