England vs Italy - a very Maltese rivalry (1)

Reading the report of June 12 When Fans Give More Than A Hoot (after all the seemingly unending stories in Malta against this and against that, the list is too long) prompted me to share with your readers, by way of an aperitif, at least two instances which I happen to be writing about at the moment for my forthcoming book (Culture, Politics and the Future of Identity).

One concerns a youngster who worked as a grocer's assistant at the Valletta market. He supported Italy in football and would go out on the market square to celebrate when his team won a game (Italy won the World Cup twice in the 1930s). He was 17 when he was picked up, imprisoned and then exiled by the British, without charge, but clearly he was a very dangerous "pro-Italian", an enemy of the state. I interviewed him when he was 77. (More about that later.)

Another concerns a onetime assistant at Nerik Mizzi's Malta newspaper, later an employee at the Banco di Roma's Valletta branch, who apparently was guilty of the same crime (and very many others no doubt), for which he was not charged.

He recalls that what must have been his last punishable offence before being imprisoned and then exiled was travelling to Milan to watch Italy play England at San Siro. (More later.)

Needless to add, they were both British subjects (i.e. Maltese) in a fortress (i.e. Malta) at a time when Anglo-Italian relations had gone to the dogs.

Times change of course. I am sorry if such revelations will make for what Marianne Elliott calls "uncomfortable reading" (When God Took Sides: Religion and Identity in Ireland, O.U.P., 2010). No apologies for it to anyone.

P.S. Whoever you barrack for, don't fall off the truck.

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