MALTA DIARY: You name it – we have it; popular sport in Malta
Surrounded by blue skies and blue seas almost throughout the year it stands to reason that water and water sports feature highly on the Maltese agenda. Yet, it’s association football that is the national number one sport, avidly, fanatically and fervently followed locally and with special – very special – interest in English and Italian football.
Malta’s football history of organised domestic competitions ranges back over 100 years with the national team having faced European greats like Germany, Italy, France, Spain, England and Holland with some respectable results considering that here one is comparing David to the giant Goliath, although there was one enormous blip against Spain back in time which I will not go into!
Almost all towns and villages have their local club in organised competitions and all clubs have well-organised nurseries that attract thousands of boys and girls.
However, the summer months are reserved for every form of water sport with a wide variety on offer. As a team sport water polo takes pride of place and last year Malta actually reached the elite final round of the European Championships but understandably were put to the sword by the giants of this European sport like Serbia and Croatia (the ultimate winners and finalists) and France. However, Malta did manage to win one match against Turkey and avoid bottom place.
Over the years Malta has been developing its reputation as a first class scuba diving centre with a number of schools and centres catering for beginners and seasoned experts, helped by relatively clear and pollution-free waters supplemented by a number of wrecks, interesting fish and fauna and a wealth of underwater caves.
The misfortunes of other favoured centres in Tunisia, Egypt and the Red Sea have all been to Malta’s gain and each year divers have been flocking here in increasing numbers.
Most main beaches have operators that offer surf-boarding, water-skiing, jet-skies, para-gliding, wind surfing, canoeing, sea-kayaking, wakeboarding and every kind of activity imaginable. Over and above, rod fishing expeditions are available while yachting and sailing thrive in popularity with a number of yacht marinas around Malta and Gozo and the highlight of the Middle Sea Race every October/November, a tough course around the Central Mediterranean.
Back on terra firma interest in rugby union has been increasing by leaps and bounds and the national team has a very decent record, not in the Six Nations class of course but well up in Europe’s middle rankings. Tennis, hockey and cricket have their followers but are less popular.
Horse-racing and hoses have a substantial number of followers with a good race-course at Marsa and weekly meetings of numbers of keenly-contested trotting races with sums of money at stake. Only second to Britain, Malta has the oldest polo club as a legacy of the British days while Marsa also boasts a golf course favoured by visiting business clients and a dedicated albeit small number of Maltese followers.
Athletics, marathon-running/walking and jogging have had an increasing following over the years and gymnastics is growing in popularity too. Unfortunately, in years past football was more or less the only school sport practiced and a little athletics. This has changed in recent years with most sports open also to females (i.e. football, rugby union, hockey etc) and now equally followed by both genders, together with a considerable number of gyms, health centres and health spas.
The bottom line is, you name it – we have it besides which there are many other activities I have not mentioned such as snooker, American pool, darts, boxing, kick-boxing, judo, karate and God knows what else.
If you are looking for an active holiday, never fear because it is widely available.