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Sports Development in the Maltese Islands

A decade of renewed interest in new sports disciplines

In last week’s article we saw how local initiative was on the rise following the departure of the British.

Today’s account continues to shed light on the sporting developments towards the end of the twentieth century leading to the dawn of the new millennium.

The Malta Cricket Association was formed in 1989 yet the first cricket match to be played on the Maltese Islands was held more than 110 years before, precisely in 1878 at the Verdala Palace Ground between British Services regiments stationed at the Cottonera and Valletta areas in which the latter won by 118 runs.

Such matches continued on regular basis with St Edward’s College in Cottonera introducing cricket in the sports curriculum in the early thirties, a factor considered to be a breakthrough at the time.

Between 1930 and 1960 a keen rivalry developed between Floriana Cricket Club and Kalkara Cricket Club until the former was disbanded in 1962.

A number of visiting teams from overseas did play against local sides in the years that followed, however, following the final departure of the British forces from Malta in 1979 there was a lack of interest in cricket locally until its resurrection through the formation of the MCA.

Rugby went through the same fate as it was introduced as a pastime in Malta in the late 19th century when different British regiments had their own rugby teams and used to organise a league competition and also play against visiting naval ships.

In 1946, Overseas Rugby Club became the first official club, consisting mainly of British servicemen.

With locals taking interest in the following years the game started to develop further to the extent that it was also introduced in schools.

However, following the departure of the British Forces from the island in 1979 interest dwindled until in 1983 a group of enthusiasts met at Marsa and rekindled the flame with the Malta Rugby Football Union finally established in 1991.

Following the formation of the Malta Canoe Union in 1991, representatives of the same club together with others from the Scouts Association (Malta) and the YMCA (Malta) formed the Malta Canoe Federation in 1992.

Races were first held around Manoel Island (Gżira) as well as along the Sliema and Msida Creeks. Gradually summer camps on the island of Comino also started to be organised for its youth groups.

Powerlifting in Malta started a year later, in 1993, when a group of athletes from Tarxien under the guidance of coach Mark Farrugia, started to leave their mark following regular training sessions held at Victor Tedesco Stadium, Ħamrun.

Years later, in 2007, the Malta Drug Free Powerlifting Association was established when a number of private gyms from around the island, including small villages like Mqabba and Għaxaq, got together to re-ignite the sport in Malta.

The Malta Bridge Association was formed in 1994 to promote the playing, teaching and training of competitive Duplicate Contract Bridge in its two main clubs, the Malta Bridge Club and the Malta Union Club, both located in Sliema.

Handball pioneers

There are also three rubber bridge groups, the Island Bridge Club in Sliema and others in Balzan and Mellieħa.

The pioneers of handball in Malta were Donald Dalli, Joe Mifsud and Leonard Bezzina.

The first Maltese participation in handball goes back to 1979 when a group of friends began practising the sport until in 1981 the first Maltese handball team, Sta Venera Handball Club, was founded by Merten Jost, a German handball player.

In 1993, handball was introduced within the Skolasport scheme and in 1995 the Malta Handball Association was officially founded with experienced sports administrator Louis Borg elected as its first president after having been invited by Donald Dalli to help in the formation and administration of the association.

Table football, known throughout the world as ‘Subbuteo’, was introduced in Malta in 1947 when the game was imported from England by the British Armed Forces who were stationed on our island, thus becoming the first European country to receive this game.

Locals started to show keen interest with various leagues organised all over the island notably in Rabat, Sliema, Tigne and other areas until in 1982 Mario Spiteri, an 18-year old member of the committee of the Austin Centre Subbuteo Organisation of Rabat, decided that time was ripe to organise a national league.

This led to the best players of the island rallying together to form the Malta Table Soccer Organisation.

Unfortunately, years later an internal split led to the creation of the Subbuteo Association of Malta in 1989 until in 1996 both standing organisations were merged into the Malta Table Football Sports Association.

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