Despite being heralded as the most important game of football these islands have ever played, last week’s match against the Faroe Islands was all but lost by Malta’s national team. In an unusually lifeless Ta’ Qali stadium, deprived of its South End Core by Covid-19, familiar groaning over the team’s inescapable inability to deliver at crucial moments resounded far and wide.
It is tradition on such occasions to relate other small island nations’ experiences to our own. Attempts at explaining such anomalies are as numerous as they are deflectionary, but none more so than suggestions that football in Malta suffers from a lack of funding. These find their latest variants in former Floriana FC President Riccardo Gaucci’s pleas to the Government.
As the most popular sport, football is in a position of privilege. It is good to remember just how much money is thrown at it compared to other sports on this island. The Malta Football Association handles millions of Euros yearly, able to derive money from UEFA, FIFA Forward, and yes, the Maltese Government.
For rugby, a sport the Maltese excel at (ranked 38th globally compared to football’s 180th), the costs involved in international matches eliminate most avenues for local investment. Players operate on an amateur basis, putting their bodies on the line for no reason other than their unconditional love for the game. Past Governments have been deaf to Maltese rugby’s cries, and blind to its potential.
Once the dust has settled, what will Maltese football have to show for this money? The current (and perhaps, temporary) state of affairs, however, should not warrant excluding Gaucci’s suggestion. In fact, he is right. National football ought to be supported at all stages of its development, but it is only when this country wakes up to its sporting talent beyond it, that the Maltese will likely find the full value for their money.