It’s been a year of juggling for Charlo Bonnici, between the steadily progressing preparations for the Mediterranean College of Sport (MCS) – due to open in 2024 – and Vassallo Group’s educational arm, Learning Works. He is CEO of both entities.
The first phase of MCS – being developed in collaboration with St Aloysius College in Birkirkara – has just been completed, with the impressive new 200-seater pavilion already being used by the Jesuits’ school for a variety of indoor pursuits and operated by MCS for external users after school hours. A car park for 200 vehicles will also form part of the facility, while the next phase will focus on the new canteen/catering facility, PE rooms, dance studio and state-of-the-art fitness centre which are all due to open in the coming months.
Charlo explains that students of St Aloysius College and MCS will be making use of the new or refurbished facilities at different times of the day. “We have issued calls for expressions of interest to run the various components making up the facility, which will include a swimming pool, as well as a childcare centre, and are encouraged by the level of interest.” Meanwhile, the MCS’s new director of sport, George Micallef, is leading the process of recruiting coaches from Malta and abroad in a number of disciplines, including sports science which will feature prominently at MCS.
The college has also signed an agreement with the Malta Paralympic Committee to cater for paralympic athletes, as well as engaging six sports ambassadors to promote the initiatives and ethos being championed at MCS. In a move bound to please the wider public, Charlo also says that the facilities, including a sports café, fitness centre and swimming pool will be made available to the wider sporting community in Malta.
However, MCS will have a very clear dual role philosophy: functioning as a centre of sporting excellence, as well as a reputable educational establishment. “Both are equally important. Our students will need to show sporting potential to be selected but their academic record will also be taken into account. We want to ensure they are well prepared, both to further their sporting education at the UK universities with which we are developing partnerships, as well as for life after their sporting career comes to an end.”
Education is, of course, an important aspect of Charlo’s portfolio. Learning Works has increased its course offering this year, which now incorporates tourism management as well as acting classes given the growth of the local TV and film industry. A postgraduate course in Obesity and Eating Disorders also forms part of the healthy offering. “The Group is always looking at niches where it can contribute to the community and there is naturally scope for synergy between Learning Works and the MCS,” Charlo says.