We are off to the National Stadium in the middle of Malta at Ta' Qali. It's a beautiful place with an all seater capacity of 20,000 but some years ago they packed in 32,000 for the visit of the old West Germany.
Next door is the old renovated Millenium Stadium which is used for lower division matches. The rocky area around these parts is full of wild flowers and cactus, and small quarries and marble shops. The new national Malta FA headquarters at the stadium www.mfa.com.mt has lots of marble and is a very pleasant building, still being worked on.
Next stop, a 1 km or so away is the old hillop town of MDINA, the 'Silent City', a treasure trove of old buildings and churches, named after the Arab word medina. There is so much to see in this Meditteranean island and you can see the sea from most places. We are only 10km from Valletta, the capital and although the roads wind and are not too wide, the old yellow buses, soon to be repalced by new ones in the summer, can get you anywhere cheap.
Michael my host drops me off at the Victor Tedesco Stadium, home of Hamrun Spartans www.hamrunspartansfc.com for a BOV(Bank of Valletta) Premier league match vs Hibernians. It is an artificial FIFA approved pitch with stands on one side and about 2,000 show up on a chilly night. It finishes 4-2 for the visitors, although Hamrun lead 2-1 at the half. The scorer of their second goal, Ryan Fenech takes his jersey off to celebrate and is booked by the referee.
Unfortunately he gets a second yellow after the break and that means a red card. The standard is quite good and some great passing. Obviously both teams are well drilled. Four non EU citizens are allowed in the league to add a little spice, and I am suprised how many clubs abound in the various divisions, plus lots of youth academies scattered around the island. They may never win the World Cup, but I am really pleased about how much football there is to watch. This Friday, Saturday and Sunday I can watch 5 matches including 2 double headers.
In fact, the next day, Saturday, I am off to Hibernians Stadium 3km from Valletta where I watch the first of a double header- SLIEMA v QORMI. A beautiful pitch overlooking Valletta Harbour and the docks, with sky high cranes for a backdrop. It finishes up 0-0. A bigger crowd, maybe 3,000 made up of about 50-50 fans of each team with drums, giant flags and lots of banter in Malti. Malti is the official language, although everyone speaks English. It's a Semitic language like Arabic, Hebrew and Amharaic, but the only one that uses the Latin script. Probably comes from the old Phoenecian language of 3,000 years ago. It sounds like Arabic to my ears.
Sir Stanley Matthews played for Hibernians in 1970, at the age of 55, and the next season was player/coach and they won The Triple. The Maltese Cup, The Independence Cup and The Sons of Malta Cup. NOT BAD FOR AN OLD MAN. he passed away in 2000, but in a couple of weeks time, February 1st would have been his 86th birthday. I remember because it's the same date as mine!