Sunday, February 25, 2024

Straight to the Point

Interview with Pamela Schembri

Where to begin about Pamela. She is smart, stubborn, a true detail maniac and with a heart as big as a house. She is also blunt, frank and straight to the point with very little patience for those who try to beat around the bush.  Possibly, this is her key asset which helps her in the daunting task to lead the communications department of the Malta FA. Atelier caught up with Pamela who shared her views on sports and how it can contribute for a better society.

Why does sport matters?

Playing sport helps us to deal with the world. It instils values that are much needed in today’s society; builds one’s character and teaches us to abide by the rules and follow them. It helps us succeed with class and lose with dignity.  

We should all practice some kind of sport. Not necessarily competitive sport, but we can all be active. A healthy body is a healthy mind.   

What encourages an Assistant Head of School to shift towards the world of football? 

One has to be slightly crazy to do this change in career. Some people see teaching as being the best job in the world. Having convenient working hours and holidays. I love education, with all the ups and downs it brings, however needed a change in scene at that point in my life.  

I had already worked in Communication between 2014 and 2017 and thus I knew what it entailed. It meant long hours, a hectic schedule and having a different challenge every day but once again I would be working and doing two things I love i.e. sports specifically football and media. My decision was also helped by the insistence of my husband who believed that it was an opportunity that one should not miss. It also meant that unlike in the past, at times I arrive home later than him and he has to do the housework and prepare the dinner but it didn’t deter him from backing me up. Something which I am grateful for.

It might be a temporary change as I might go back to Education some day but I was given this opportunity which I embraced wholeheartedly. Working in sport is a pleasure, it also has its downside as unfortunately a lot is based on match results even if there is a large amount of work that is done behind the scenes to complement this which is most of the time forgotten. I am proud of everything that is Maltese and nothing beats being with the team when Malta wins.  

Why is football often referred to as the beautiful game?

Football is not just a game, it is the passion that people carry in their hearts.  People from all around the world gather together to support one football team; they leave behind their differences. Football is followed by rich and poor alike. It unites people, gives them values and helps them dream. It alienates society and gets it together.  

When you think that half of the world watched the final of the last edition of the FIFA World Cup, making it the most watched event in the 21st century, you realise the following this specific sport has. 

Is football still a man’s world? 

Football is open to all. Nowadays women have the opportunity to play football, and help out in the football clubs’ administration.  However not a lot of Maltese women do so. Thus I would agree that it is still a man’s world but I feel that it is a woman’s choice to not join in.  

On a personal level I don’t feel that I have anything less than any other male director at the Association. We work on the same level just doing different things. A limited number of females work at the Malta FA and the Association is adamant to increase this, even with the introduction of the role of a female vice president. 

How can the Malta FA contribute towards a better society? 

Football is not simply the national team and the domestic leagues.  It also involves other aspects Through its FSR department, backed up by the recently launched strategy, the Malta FA is broadening its vision to include everyone.

Communications and public relations are such broad industries. How do you narrow down your focus? 

As a department we set priorities. We get requests for media coverage from the different departments, each thinking that their share of work needs to be highlighted and shown to all. National teams and international window take priority, the rest follows.

Shona Rhimes one noted, “Words have power. TV has power. My pen has power.” How can the Malta FA convey its message better ? 

Words have power, and up till a few years ago it was the chosen few who were given the opportunity to ethically choose what to publish or say and where. Today this power is given to everyone through social media and at times people write before thinking or have hidden agendas and fuel messages that are not necessarily the truth. 

The Association has been working hard to convey a truthful message, constantly sharing good practices.  Even if it is the most followed sport in Malta it is also easily the most criticised and most of the time it is the result that does the talking. No matter how hard you work to convey what the Association is doing, which is a lot, it all boils down to results.

Working at a large entity means more departments and more management levels. Do you ever find that overwhelming? 

Not really, maybe because I am used to working with large numbers. The school I worked in last, consisted of a community of approx. 1,000 ranging from students, teachers and LSEs, clerical staff, cleaners and maintenance persons.  

I believe in planning. The department is not large, however we all have our designated roles and try not to overlap in these. I believe that if you do not plan, and delegate work then anything can easily be overwhelming even the simplest things.

How do you find a compromise between such a demanding job and your own personal life? 

My days as a full-time employee at the Malta FA are still at an early stage and even if I gave an input there in the previous years, and I know most of the people and have a good working relationship with them, now the buck stops at me. Now it is really a choice as to how many hours I spent on the job. In order to learn, one has to be focused especially in the early days of a new role. Eventually things fall into place and become easier and thus less time consuming.  

I have a good team of collaborators who brighten my day and share the burden of the communications department at the largest sporting association in Malta, however I am now the go to point especially in emergencies when you have to stop your personal plans to minimise the damage. 

What’s next on your busy agenda?

Besides to keep on positively pushing the Malta FA’s agenda, on a personal note we will be fostering a 3-year old little boy and looking forward to it. This means that responsibilities will increase however it also gives a new meaning to life.

Photographer: Alan Saliba

Venue: Barbajean Restaurant


Aqra Wkoll