Malta Independent

Football players, officials to sport rainbow laces in 19 games to promote LGBTIQ inclusivit­y

- ■ Albert Galea

Football players and officials will don rainbow laces and armbands in 19 games across various levels in order to promote LGBTIQ inclusivit­y in sport.

‘Everyone’s Game’, as the programme is called, came about following discussion­s between the Malta Football Associatio­n (MFA) and the Ministry for Equality, and will see 600 laces and 50 armbands distribute­d for use in fixtures across these coming days. 19 games across the BOV Premier League, BOV First Division, MFA Youths Section A, GFA First Division, and the MFA’s Women’s League.

MFA’s Matthew Paris said that the associatio­n’s message was clear: that its door is wide open to everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from.

He cited a recent study which found that 70% of all children come into contact with football in one way or another and said that it was therefore important that football nurseries are at the forefront of promoting inclusivit­y in sport.

The programme forms part of the MFA’s Football For Life programme, which has in the past seen the introducti­on of measures which help those who are blind or deaf to feel the atmosphere within the stadium at a game.

Equality Minister Helena Dalli said that dialogue such as this is extremely important to help change society’s attitude and mindset to be more inclusive and embrace diversity more.

Dalli said that when it comes to legislatio­n, Malta is a global leader; but this legislativ­e change is yet to fully spread into all spheres of society and into people’s everyday lives.

Sport is a key way to reach different parts of society and a lot can be done to promote inclusivit­y and diversity in not just LGBTIQ rights, but also in religion, race, and disability, she said.

“There are still many steps for us to take so that diversity is mainstream­ed in our everyday lives, but we must appreciate that it makes us richer as people and as a society,” Dalli said before auguring for more such collaborat­ions with other sports associatio­ns.

Silvan Agius from the Equality Minister praised the MFA’s initiative and said that many LGBTIQ people did not participat­e in sport because of discrimina­tion both within the sport and from supporters.

Gabi Calleja who heads the Human Rights and Integratio­n Directorat­e within the Ministry for Equality and EU Affairs said that the campaign with the MFA forms part of the country’s action plan for LGBTIQ equality which was launched late last year and augured for concrete measures to emerge from these discussion­s. She said that this was also an opportunit­y to open the discussion on laws pertaining to the participat­ion of trans and intersex persons within sport.

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