IYFA sets sports development standard for kids


THE Government is empowering women entrepreneurs and Maraia Matatea was fortunate enough to be one of the grant recipients able to start their venture - Inter Youth Football Academy (IYFA).

“I am so thankful to the Government for providing us with a $30,000 grant under the Young Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES) programme, which I had applied for before COVID-19,” Ms Matatea said.

“This was like a miracle for us as after COVID-19 we had no way to finance us and we were struggling,” she added.

“It took us almost three years to get the grant and set up this first of a kind academy where we are taking girls and boys from the age of four to 16 years old and providing them with an opportunity to learn football at an early stage.”

“We started small and have come so far. We even go to Vanua Levu for tournaments and challenge the primary schools there while two of our female students have progressed and are already overseas,” she added.

Maraia’s husband and sports development officer for IYFA, Rivaz Ali, has been instrumental in setting up the academy and also coaches the students.

“In 2006, after leaving Fiji Football Association as a development officer, I decided to take my knowledge of soccer and help the kids locally where they can also learn the same,” Mr Ali said.

“Currently we have about 200 plus kids enrolled in our three academies situated in Suva, Navua and Nadi. We have majority enrollment in Suva where students participate from Monday to Friday from 4.30pm to 6.30pm and for Saturday it’s 3pm to 4.30pm.”

“Our registration is open all year-round and the fee is $310 which helps us meet our expenses while students receive their uniforms with their name and number printed on it. We also have our daily fees which are $10 per session,” he added.

Mr Ali says that the main focus of the academy was to develop the players and these are the kids which can play in the district level in future and those who do not qualify can play club level.

He adds that those who won’t get to play for the club will at least get an opportunity growing up and being involved with soccer activities as a child.

“I think all children deserve the right to be part of some kind of sports and IYFA does not discriminate and welcomes everyone,” Mr Ali said.

“Our program is very good and as we run this for six days, there is no holiday for us. We want to cater for the kids and offer them the best platform there is for development and where parents can also join anytime.”

IYFA recently in partnership with FC Fury Development brought in professional footballer Israel Sesay to conduct a Holiday Development Workshop which saw great participation from students.

Apart from being a licensed coach, Mr Sesay currently plays as a forward for the Empire Strykers in California and was excited to share his experiences as a footballer and a coach during this workshop.

“We would also like to thank the Government for helping us with the grant which enables us to get the equipment needed for our program and also thank the sponsors for their contribution,” Mr Ali said.