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Reaching out to the wider community through football

The Gibraltar FA continued to widen its net with last week’s Street Football programme in collaboration with the Ministries of Equality, Youth, and Sport. Just days after it was revealed in parliament that the association had been working with HM Prison on a specifically tailored programme, and as further reports emerge of other important football programmes with other sectors of the community, the Gibraltar FA launched its new Street Football programme.
The programme comes a year after UEFA launched the FootbALL programme, aimed at highlighting the power of football to drive positive social change across European communities and advocating that the game is open to all to enjoy, play, learn, and develop. FIFA has also, in recent years, emphasised its drive towards developing street football initiatives and programmes, alongside community projects to use the influence of football beyond the playing field.
The latest programme by the Gibraltar FA is one of its many initiatives aimed at getting closer to the community and using its resources, programmes, and funding to provide beyond the club competition leagues and national team. Officials from the Gibraltar FA have highlighted how the association has many projects ongoing at the moment, some of which they will not be announcing due to the sensitivity of the groups involved. However, these projects have widened the net through which they are using their resources and influence through football to provide positive changes within the community.
The association, knowing that one of their objectives is to provide more towards recreational football, sees the Street Programme as one such pilot programme. Street football is aimed at all youngsters between the ages of 7 and 15 and is designed to encourage children to play football in a fun, relaxed, urban environment, with simplified rules, in an inclusive format where all children are welcomed irrespective of ability, experience, and knowledge. Street football also offers an excellent opportunity for youngsters who do not want to take part in organised football (or sport in general) to engage in physical activity in a pressure-free environment.
The programme, as seen on Wednesday with close to 150 children attending the first pilot session, not only provided a fun and enjoyable experience for young players but also served as a respite from the more disciplined club football environment. Although club football sees large numbers involved, there are limitations in the number of players due to regulations on the registration of eligible teams and the voting structure to allow new teams to register, as well as limits in squad numbers, which effectively places a cap on participation.
With the past decade seeing football enter a more structured environment, recreational football has been the most adversely impacted. Social changes and differences in behaviors have also led to areas such as street football being lost from the patios and parks. The latest initiative aims to re-ignite the spark that has seen so many players emerge onto the scene.
The Street Football programme is expected to be extended into other estates across Gibraltar after an assessment of last week’s session. Officials have indicated that not only will national team players, such as Tjay De Barr who was present last week, be involved, but they also hope to bring some “ballers” into the programme.
The Gibraltar FA, through its latest programmes, follows the lines set down by governing bodies such as UEFA and FIFA while introducing its own programmes based on local needs. This potentially allows the association to access funding that would benefit the community and not just be aimed at enhancing the finances of clubs, as seen with some programmes during the past decade.

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