Posted: 1/14/2011


       Malta has a population of over 400,000 and only grows 20% of it's own food. The national dish seems to be rabbit stew, but DON'T BE ALARMED, my pet loving friends.

       I took one look at the cute little bunny ears sticked out on the plate and said NO, not for me, and stuck to pizza. I strolled through the old town and the magnificent walled city of Valettta and bought some traditional tasty soft nougat type confection-Helwa tat-tork. Delicious with nougat and nuts and other delicacies, sold by the gram. I paid E1.50 for 200 grammes. Michael picked me up and took me to his Valetta FC nursery youth academay, built into the ramparts of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

      What a place to train!. They have a dozen or more teams from 6-17 and some artificial pitches with this great background. One of his 14 year rising stars is Ismael, whose father actually makes the delicacy that I had bought earlier. The team had been to Dana Cup No1 in Frederikshavn, Denmark last summer, and the teams have travelled to tournaments in France, Italy and Spain.

      In the evening we went to the Cottonera Sports Complex to watch Malta v Norway in an indoor futsal international. Next week Malta hosts a four team UEFA tournament so this was just a friendly for both teams. The visitors won 7-2. All the players are amateurs and the Maltese goalie Matthew Mifsud is a doctor-a gynechologist. It wasn't well publicised and there was a small crowd, but it was lots of fun and a new experience. for all you need to know about Maltese football.

      I am staying in the upmarket coastal area of Sliema, a 15 minute yellow bus ride  away. There are hundreds of these aging yellow buses, many old Leyland ones from Britain and you can pay less that 50cents and go most places. Their drivers give them different names, The first one I caught was called  Terresa. There are lots of new hotels and also round the bend in St. Julian. Lots of winter vacationers, and with new discount airlines such as Ryan Air and Easyjet, and also discount hotel prices at this time of year, it's a great place to be.

        Not much sand - the shore is rocky and they have dug square holes for people to bath in, but there are many lidos and swimming pools. At THE POINT I toured a new world class shopping centre. On the roof is a full sized football oitch which top clubs use.