MALTA. IT’S A QUESTION OF SPORT

Well, I must admit, this article has been a long time coming. It is a topic that has swished around in my brain for a while. The kind of swish that’s akin to a fresh load of clothes dumped in the machine on a Saturday morning. Round and round she goes. After much though, I am still less the wiser regarding the situation. Of course, and you probably realised from the title, I refer to sport here in Malta, and the question of why there is such a lack of funding and development for certain sports and in particular in schools.

Those of you who know or follow me, will have probably realised I am now associated with Rugby here in Malta. I am currently coaching in the Kavallieri Rugby Club youth section. And whilst unqualified, I do tend to know a fair bit about the sport and am happy to help out. The reason for my coaching adventure, quite simply, is because the club still needs to rely solely on volunteer help. With out that there would be no rugby at all in Malta.

As a matter of fact, until recently the MRFU had one full time coach on the pay role. Who was charged with helping coach the junior sections as well as travel to schools to try and boost the profile of the sport across the island. Even this one employee had to be let go as the infrastructure does not support even that low level of investment. The way I see it is an absolute shame.

I am not going to pretend to be an expert on the subject, but I know a little. And as far as I know, in terms of Rugby, both the Malta Rugby Football Union and individual clubs, solely rely on sponsorship money and registration fees to support all matters of sport here in Malta. No help from any other governing bodies what so ever. It’s not clear to me exactly how much support other sports get here in Malta. In fact, maybe some of you can give me a much clearer picture on the subject. Does football, for example, get governmental support to help sustain it’s infrastructure and continue improving? Does any other sport for that matter? And what is the current Government’s stance regarding investment in sport?

Anyone who is in the know and who can help educate this armchair sports fanatic and his followers is more than welcome to leave their comments below. But from my perspective, the current system is hugely flawed. And what makes it even more disappointing is the fact that we are a small nation of huge sports lovers. There is a fanatical following locally for both Football and Water-polo. And much love for sports such as Rugby, Basketball, Tennis, Cricket, Baseball, Handball, Volleyball, Cycling, Running and Athletics, Swimming. Should I go on?

Yet, especially for some of the lesser popular sports there is very little support at all. In fact in most cases NONE AT ALL. So where does the problem come from exactly? Well putting aside the obvious political budgetary dilemma regarding sport, I think there is a serious lack of infrastructure regarding sport in education. In simple terms, our kids are not even close to being exposed to enough general and competitive sport during school. I just cannot believe it would be difficult for the education ministry to put in place a system where schools, segmented regionally, would compete against each other on a weekly or bi weekly basis.

It is the responsibility of the education ministry to enforce such a structure within our schools. A system where every school would have a football team, a basket ball team, a tennis team, a rugby sevens team, an athletics team and a swimming team. Possibly even a volleyball, netball and one or two others, depending on resources. Students would be made to try out for their sport of choice, and if chosen train once a week, in a session after school. And also compete with other schools on a regular basis.

A competitive system where week by week points would be accumulated and a table formed. At some point the winning teams from different regions could also compete against each other for regional recognition as well as having regional representation which would feature the best players of each region coming from different schools. Promotes excellence and integration. This could ultimately end in national representation as well at a competitive level. Giving students the chance to represent their country against students from different countries.

In Australia, for example, the country where I was raised, every school coast to coast was a part of this system. And it proved hugely successful. Not just for the countries professional and representative sports systems, but for the overall health of the children as well. And from my view, the system really did not seem that complicated at all. I had the opportunity to play rugby both for my school and at regional representative level, and till today it still remains one of the achievements I am most proud of. It makes me slightly sad that my own children will not have the same opportunities.

It’s not rocket science either, and all it takes is a willingness from the government/ministry for sport to identify it’s importance and make it a priority. Joseph Muscat, get on it. I also want to take this opportunity to take a slight dig at the parents here in Malta. And there general lack of understanding regarding the importance of a sports culture for our children. There is a savage imbalance locally when it comes to mental vs. physical output and frankly it is a serious health concern.

Some parents, perhaps he majority, seem to put an obsessive focus on education and studies to an unhealthy level. Yes, the school system must take part of the blame here. However, parents do have a tendency to get carried away also. When exam time comes along, it seems all other curricular activities must cease. Failing to understand the importance of allowing children to unplug and release energy during this highly stressful period. Parent’s come on. Breaking away for an hour once or twice a week to train football, rugby or whatever, is not going to harm your child performance or results. In fact I would venture to say it would help improve them. Think about it.

My belief in the benefits of an improved sporting system in Malta can never be overstated. And can solve so many different problems in one go. It will improve Malta as a sporting nation, giving the country a far greater chance of being successful at international level. Currently it’s very very very very very far from being the case. However, more importantly, it will also go along way to helping with the current obesity epidemic in children locally. And, it will also help when it comes to the overall well being with our children. With the pressures of young life these days, balance is key.

So Malta, it’s a question of sport. And it’s importance not just as fans or enthusiasts but as a way of life. Do you think it is important or not, and how much so? Personally I don’t think it is just important, but imperative. I think this is a topic that needs to be discussed, debated, argued and shared if we are ever to affect any kind of change. So please feel free to post your comments below or on social media. Also feel free to click and share from above. I wait with great curiosity to hear your responses.

 

 

 

 

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Discussion

  1. bromo

    Strongly agree with your views. I also think its a funding issue. If one goes to the athletics track in Marsa he would think that its still the 1960s with the infrastructure there. The gym there, where athletes representing the country train is an obsolute joke.
    Also, the infra school competition is very important, but lately there is the mentetality that we should not make the children compete and that everyone is a winner.

    1. davidoziborg

      Thanks for your comments. There needs to be a change in attitude within the culture here in Malta. Until that happens, things will only get worse.

  2. Tiziana

    Very interesting read. Yes, parents are to blame as they should be encouraging children to engage in sports, pushing towards a change in the education system. There have been many acedemic reforms in schools over the years, why not one geared to sports?

    Introducing competitive sports is a great idea.

    1. davidoziborg

      Thank you for your comments. Greatly appreciated.

  3. Ping

    Could not agree more! Currently sport is a privilege in Malta when most schools have the infrastructure to provide it to all students. In fact, I would say Malta has an advantage over many other countries in that no school is ‘far away’ from another, so any sort of transport for matches is a much smaller expense for us than for many other countries.

    Encouraging competition of such a level as part of the education system instead of it being solely a privately ran extra curricular is a much needed step in the right direction for a country which has never taken itself seriously enough when it’s come to sport.

    1. davidoziborg

      Good to hear we think the same things.

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