Italians and English have their say
Maltese football fanatics may be gearing up for the biggest Anglo-Italian clash in decades – but it seems the rivalry is not quite as intense among England and Italy nationals.
“We don’t view Italy as rivals in the same way as we view Germany or France,” said English Sliema resident Andrew Braithwaite.
Hailing from Merseyside, Mr Braithwaite said he “admires and totally understands” the rivalry between Maltese Italy and England fans, though he thinks the Maltese should show more support for their own national team when they play.
“On Merseyside we breathe football rivalry, and like many great football rivalries the origins in Malta seem to go beyond the game.
“Culturally Malta has a mix of English and Italian, two very distinct identities. In choosing one side you’re effectively saying: this is the culture I admire the most. Are you a pint of bitter or a shot of espresso?”
Mr Braithwaite added the Italian national side is “undoubtedly strong” and he hopes they go on to win Euro 2012 if they knock England out today, though he was less complimentary about Italian football in general.
“I’ve had to suffer a lot of Serie A since I’ve been here, and there’s no doubt about it, it’s dull,” he said.
Italian Naxxar resident Valentino Baldi said the local rivalry “was a great surprise”.
“Yesterday I was in Valletta and I was amazed by the number of English and Italian flags on Maltese balconies. I think it’s a privilege and a unique experience to watch the match in Malta – you can’t find such an atmosphere in Italy.”
Mr Baldi also played down the rivalry between England and Italy.
“England are not historical rivals. I would say Italy and England are ‘normal’ rivals as they both are strong teams with a fantastic tradition.”
His fellow countryman and Birkirkara resident Francesco Nanni agreed.
“Historically France are our biggest rivals; there is no side we hate more than them”he said.
Mr Nanni expressed concern that the local rivalry could get out of hand tonight: “I’m not going to watch the game in a public place, as it is highly probable that rows and fights will break out.”
If Italy are knocked out tonight, Mr Nanni said he “wouldn’t be too sad if England finally won a trophy, as I lived in England for four years so it’s partially in my heart”.
But English Sliema resident Steve Morrison was less willing to join the Anglo-Italian love-in: “I used to quite like Italy, but my opinion has changed since living in Malta. The Maltese who think they are Italian have made me dislike the Italians!”