"UEFA's support has been crucial," said Malta Football Association general secretary Angelo Chetcuti after funds from the HatTrick programme helped to invigorate women's football on the island.
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The Malta Football Association (MFA) has clearly benefited from the UEFA Women's Football Development Programme (WFDP).
During the first cycle of the HatTrick programme (2012–16), UEFA gave each national association €100,000 a year to invest on women's football development. The MFA invested in some key sectors, such as coach education, U13 festivals and a new girls' academy, as well as branding of the women's game, with their efforts – along with those of the associations in Poland, Azerbaijan, and England – being identified as a best-practice example in the UEFA Women's Football Development report.
"Women's football projects a very positive image for the game," said MFA general secretary Angelo Chetcuti. "Our game needs to be much more accessible, and gender balance is one of the areas that needs to be improved on. UEFA's support has been crucial. It helps us fund coach education and our academy, as well as our competitions."
One of 50 promising young players who now train weekly at the MFA's Ta' Qali Technical Centre thanks to Malta's renewed focus on the women's game, 12-year-old Martina said: "Last summer, we had a summer camp organised by the MFA women's national academy; I had a trial and I got chosen, and that's where I started my career as a football player. Football helps me to feel confident, because it shows that we are able to speak up because women are equal to men, and there isn't any difference."
The MFA has strengthened women's football at grassroots level – football is the biggest participation sport for girls on the island – and there is plenty of enthusiasm for further work in the sector.
"My hope is to continue to increase our numbers of young female football players, but also to strengthen the competition and see more and more people attending our women's games and our women's national team matches," Chetcuti added. "We've had some very beautiful success stories and I hope we will continue and build on those."
Due to its success, the WFDP has been extended for another four years as part of UEFA's HatTrick IV (2016–20) assistance programme.
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