Malta is undoubtedly a sports-loving nation. Maltese people have enjoyed sports for several years – in fact, centuries. Our sporting tradition was largely influenced by the British rulers during the 19th and early 20th century. Some of our traditional sports include horse racing, boules, Regatta just to name a few. Other modern sports have also become an intrinsic part of their culture and society. There are many sports enjoyed in Malta, however, this guide focuses on the top sports in Malta that are renowned and most common for the Maltese.
Here is a look at some of the Top Sports in Malta
Football is one most popular sports in Malta. It is so popular that you will hardly meet a Maltese (male or female) who has never played it in their life. The Maltese play football almost everywhere – official football playing fields (pitches), school playgrounds, streets, parks, and beaches.
The sport was introduced by the British during the mid-19th century as a form of entertainment for soldiers stationed on the island. In 1863, a football association was formed to govern the quickly changing sport. During this time, the sport was being played at an amateur level until 1909 when a league format was introduced.
Most football fanatics in the island support foreign clubs and national teams. Normally, Italy and England are the countries of choice. The former is supported because it is the closest geographically and most Italian TV stations can be received all over the Mediterranean island while the latter is supported for its historical connection with Malta.
Boċċi is a popular game played all over the Maltese islands. This pastime was brought to the Maltese islands by the Knights of St John during the 16th century and is closely related to the Italian Bocce, English Bowls, and the French game of Petanque.
The Maltese love this traditional sport so much – in fact almost every town and village in Malta has its Boċċi Club. Even the emigrants to Canada, Australia, and The United States have taken the game with them and now forms an important part of their social scene.
The game is played on a flat sand surface and can be between two players, or two teams of two, three, or four members. It is played with eight balls and a target ball known as the jack ball. The objective of the pastime is to roll the ball closest to the jack ball.
Horse racing holds a long tradition in Malta. The sport was introduced by the Knights of Malta in the 15th century. It is still a very important part of Imnarja, an annual celebration held in the historic town of Rabat on 29th June.
Other horse racing events are held regularly in the Marsa racing course. The events are held every Sunday, between October and May. These races, for the most part, are trotting, a form of horse racing where the horses are hitched to a wheeled cart (Sulky) and are required to race at a specific gait.
Of all the traditional Maltese sports, Gostra competition is unique and dates back to the Middle Ages. In Gostra competition, a 10-meter-long pole is attached to a pier or boat at a 45-degree angle and extended over the sea. Flags are attached at the end of the pole, which is then greased. To the screams and shouts of excited spectators, participants run up the pole in order to snag one of the prized flags. Obviously, this is no small feat as the action requires fitness and skill.
Gostra competition is organized mainly for entertainment purposes during village feasts.
The Regatta is a traditional boat racing event that has been held in Malta since the Middle Ages. Regatta races are national events that are held to commemorate the end of foreign invasion and occupation. The traditional boat races take place twice a year – 31st March and 8th September.
It pitches rowers from different coastal towns against each other over ten races of about 1,040 metres each. The boat races span two categories: the ‘Open’ Category (professional rowers) and Category ‘B’ (amateur rowers). Some of the boats used in the races include kajjik, dgħajsa tal-pass frejgatina, and dgħajsa tal-midalji. The races are held from the Grand Harbour in Valletta and usually last about five hours.
Water polo is a national obsession for the Maltese. It is a natural favourite for one good reason – it combines an islander’s passion for water with that for football.
While water polo gained popularity only in 1925, the country’s water polo team participated in the 1928 Summer Olympics Games. The popularity of water polo has continued to grow thanks to the fact that Malta has participated in major national competitions and achieved positive results.
Most beach clubs and lidos have a water polo pitch. Families normally head down to these pitches to play the sport or simply watch players during their practice sessions. Other popular water-based pursuits include water skiing, parasailing, jet skiing, wakeboarding, scuba diving and kitesurfing.
Clay Pigeon/Skeet Shooting
Bird hunting and trapping are part of Malta’s national identity. The Maltese have for decades hunted migrating birds that use the island as a stop-over during spring and autumn.
However, with debates arising over the morality of sport hunting, most hunters have resorted to clay pigeon/skeet shooting. As a result, clay pigeon shooting has become a popular leisure activity in Malta. Several well-equipped shooting ranges have even opened up to accommodate the growing number of the lovers of this sport.
The sport is suitable for both beginners and more experienced shooters. Additionally, it can be practiced all year round thanks to the island’s great weather.
Motorsports in Malta was introduced by the British Forces way back in the 1950’s. During this time, the British established the Forces Motor Racing Club which was open to any native who had served with the forces or been a Boy Scout. A few years later, several Maltese clubs sprouted and in 1976, the first Maltese motorsport federation was formed.
Today, motorsports fanatics in Malta indulge in a variety of activities such as drag racing, karting, navigational exercises, hill climbs and sprints, off-roading, just to name a few. The popular race track in the country is the Hal Far Raceway – well known for holding ¼ mile races.
Sporting Facilities in Malta
Malta has an impressive number of sporting complexes including Tal-Qroqq Sports Complex, Marsa Sports Complex, Cottonera Sports Complex, Ta’ Qali Sports Facilities, Kirkop sports complex and Cottonera Sports Complex. These complexes offer facilities for swimming, rugby, tennis, football, tennis, baseball, bowling, and cricket among other sporting activities.