It's stronger than me. Even before buying a trip - or even before deciding what trip I'm going to do - I like to check which sports events fate has for me. I don't always watch them, but I always like to have all the information when I get somewhere new.
This will not strike you as a surprise, but Malta is no big destination for sports tourism. Still, for someone born in the mid-80s, there is a certain romanticism of a football in which the Maltese teams often met the Portuguese clubs. In addition, Malta is one of UEFA's weakest country teams. Everything helped fuel my curiosity.
Unlike other city destinations, where you need to be fortunate for the team to play at home that weekend, Malta doesn't have that problem. Whatever happens, there are always two games in two stadiums: the National in Ta'Qali (about 35 minutes from Valletta by bus) and the Victor Tedesco in Hamrun, practically at the gates of Valletta (about a mile for those who like to venture on foot).
The hardest part was convincing Sarah because she was not completely thrilled with the chance to see a game, or even two, in a row. I understand. It was a short trip, of only three days (or two and a half, to be more exact) and the time of the games - 14.00 and 16.00 / 16.15 - did not help. Still, we went to see Pembroke-Floriana (14:00) at the Victor Tedesco.
The curiosity was big. As a relatively deep knower of the senior leagues in Portugal, I wanted to see what division Floriana, one of the most historic teams in Malta, would fit into.
First, the tickets. The stadium is at the level of our Portugal Championship - or even some more comfortable of the regional divisions - and there were two ticket offices: one for Floriana or Hamrun Spartans fans and another one for Pembroke or Hibernians fans (there was a Hamrun Spartans- Hibernians at 4:15 pm).
The price, seven euros, was not a deterrent, especially if we consider that it was for both games. Moreover, the experience was not much different from a game of secondary grades in Portugal. With a very distinctive detail: with seven minutes played into the game, the police identified a fan who - it seemed to us - insulted the referee. Punishment? He was expelled from the stadium. I know this might be something usual in the USA, where taunting can be punishable, especially in basketball arenas, but in European football, it was a complete first for me.
The dynamics are very similar. Most of the supporters - maybe 200 on our stand - seemed to be family or friends of the players. In one corner there were the ultras, with about 15 supporters who sang little but didn't give rest to a drum.
At half-time, running to the bar is a tradition. In our case: a lemon Ice Tea, a Snickers, and a Twix cost 3.50 euros. Doing the math, by 17.50 we both saw a game, fed ourselves (unhealthily, let's say) and added a Maltese league game to our experience.
How many can proudly say they saw Floriana, the first ever Malta champion, beat Pembroke 2-1 live?