A legal directive to stop children aged 16 and under from playing contact sports will have a detrimental effect on both their physical and mental wellbeing, various local sports professionals have warned.
“It has already been hard training in these conditions, making sacrifices, balancing academic life with sports, then you come as an athlete at the most crucial part of the season where all the hard work is going to be tested, and you find yourself out of the team,” said Ruben Baldacchino, a local sports professional.
For some sporting leagues, March marks the end of the regular seasons, which also means that young athletes have had their time on the field, pitch or court cut early.
Though the new measures are only in place for just over a month, it spells the end of a season for many young athletes.
“Winning or losing is not important at this stage, but you can’t play 90% of the season, be an integral part of a team and players who happen to be born a year earlier have their season finished abruptly,” Baldacchino continued.
The new directive doesn’t just disadvantage individual players, but whole teams too, by removing a portion of the squad from playing.
“If you are a club that believes in youth development, and gives opportunities to younger players to play at higher levels, you probably lost four or five players,” said Justin Fenech, President of Swieqi United FC.
“Clubs that are obviously playing older players aren’t going to have these problems,” he said.
In football, the new legal directive proves more problematic for the under-19 women’s youth league which has a high number of 16 and under players competing in the league. As such, a number of fixtures have been postponed as a result of the new measures.
“This directive will affect clubs that have a dedicated youth development policy. If the kid is good enough they would have pushed them to under-19s,” Justin continued.
The new measures don’t just limit players physically, but mentally too, professionals have warned.
“This is the time in their life when they are gaining and honing their skills,” Fenech continued. “It does affect their development and mental skills.”
“This is not their fault. These young athletes are suffering because adults didn’t do their jobs or they were irresponsible in their acts. We are punishing them without guilt,” Baldacchino said before pointing the finger at all those who violated COVID-19 regulations.
In addition to stopping all contact sport for children 16 and under, restaurants, kiosks, and snack bars have all been ordered to close in light of a historic rise of COVID-19 cases on the island.
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