[WATCH] Football to raise awareness on LGBTIQ inclusion in sports

Football is being viewed as one way of fostering inclusion for LGBTIQ people in a new initiative between the Equality Ministry and the Malta Football Association

German team Wolfsburg's captain wears rainbow armband in fight against homophobia
German team Wolfsburg's captain wears rainbow armband in fight against homophobia
MFA is championing inclusion for LGBTIQ people

Having openly gay and lesbian football players was important to help dismantle the stigma around the sport, according to the director of the human rights directorate.

Silvan Agius said the coming out of LGBTIQ football players was important to help foster greater inclusion.

“Many people within the LGBTQ+ community do not participate in sports because they are afraid of discrimination, it is important for us to work together to help eradicate homophobia and transphobia not only from the sport but also from our communities,” Agius said on Wednesday.

He was speaking at the launch of a joint initiative by the Equality Minister and the Malta Football Association called Everyone’s Game.

Helena Dalli: It's difficult to change people's mindsets and that is why the ministry has partnered with the MFA, since football is one of the most popular sports in Malta
Helena Dalli: It's difficult to change people's mindsets and that is why the ministry has partnered with the MFA, since football is one of the most popular sports in Malta

Equality Minister Helena Dalli said dialogue was opened with the MFA among other sectors because diversity was not yet appreciated to the extent that it should be.

She highlighted that the island still had a long way to go, and a lot of work that needed to be done for people to stop thinking of diversity as something negative.

Dalli said the ministry was looking into ways on how to expand legislation to create a “society that is inclusive and safe, where no one is excluded”.

She said it was difficult to change people’s mind sets, which is why the ministry partnered with the MFA. “Together with other stakeholders, we hope to find ways to make sure that diversity is celebrated the way it should be.”

MFA vice-president Matthew Paris said the association had an open-door policy, “regardless of who you are, where you come from, or what you’ve done in the past”.

He said past schemes such as Football For life have helped people with visible impairment and hearing difficulties to enjoy the game. “It is important for everybody to be given the opportunity to experience and enjoy a game that is so widely loved in Malta,” Paris said.

MFA liaison officer Peter Busuttil said the MFA had been working on numerous inclusion projects, including gender and disability inclusion schemes.

“Football has the power to bring people together. That’s why the MFA believes that it can be a gateway to bringing awareness to people about inclusion,” he said.

Busuttil said that as part of the scheme, players will be showcasing the campaign at matches from the 20 to the 26 of April in both Malta and Gozo.

Players from all divisions including the premier league, Youth FA, women’s football, and Gozo will be taking part. Players will be wearing rainbow-patterned armbands and shoelaces. Streamers, also with rainbow patterns will be put up at the games.

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