England vs Italy - a very Maltese rivalry (2)
It was interesting to note the mix between England and Italy supporters in the article regarding our parliamentarians supporting teams in the World Cup (Unifying Political Football, June 11). One might think that this great rivalry between the two countries extends beyond our shores. It exists only in our Maltese culture.
It is believed by some elders that this emerged politically way back before the war when the main parties were The Constitutional Party headed by Lord Strickland and the Nationalist Party headed by Nerik Mizzi. The Labour Party was yet to be born. Lord Strickland was pro-British while Dr Mizzi was pro-Italian. My father used to relate about the antagonism that existed then; no Nationalist or any religious person would travel on their ship The Knight of Malta as the Stricklandijani were interdicted by the Church.
After the war when international football was becoming more popular and more widely followed, the populace were finding it easy to associate themselves with a team keeping in step with their political belief. Italy and England were the obvious choices. As the Constitutional Party split up, the majority found hope in the new Labour Party. However, these ex-Stricklandjani retained their allegiance to the English team.
In the 1950s, it would not be unusual for Labourites to side with England while the Nationalists would side with Italy.
However, as communications developed and TV brought the game closer to home, there was more following of international football and allegiances started to change.