Malta

Capital: Valetta
Population: 413,000
Currency: Euro
Official Language: Maltese, English
Borders: None – Island
GNP per Capita: $23,971 (37th in world)
Main Airport: Malta International Airport

Malta officially the Republic of Malta (Maltese: Repubblika ta’ Malta), is a developed southern European country and consists of an archipelago situated centrally in the Mediterranean, 93 km south of Sicily and 288 km north-east of Tunisia, with Gibraltar 1,826 km to the west and Alexandria 1,510 km to the east.

Malta covers just over 300 km² in land area, making it one of Europe’s smallest and one of Europe’s most densely populated countries. Its de facto capital is Valletta and the largest city is Birkirkara. Maltese is the national language and a co-official language, alongside English.

Throughout history, Malta’s location has given it great strategic importanceand a sequence of powers including the Phoenicians, Romans, Fatimids, Sicilians, Knights of St John, French and British have all ruled the islands. Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a Republic in 1974, whilst retaining membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. It is a member of the United Nations (since 1964) and a member of the European Union (since 2004). Malta is also party to the Schengen Agreement (since 2007) and member of the eurozone (since 2008).

Football in Malta is run by the Malta Football Association and was introduced to the Maltese Islands during British rule in the mid 1800s. The sport at the time was new to England, and was used as a means of entertainment for the soldiers stationed in Malta at the various barracks around Malta at the time. In 1863 a football association was formed which governed rules and regulations for this quickly changing sport, which was still in amateur competition stage and played in an un-scheduled format until 1909 when a league format was introduced.

Interest in the Maltese league continued throughout the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s with fifteen more clubs joining the league including Birkirkara FC in 1950 . It was however Hibernians and Valletta who put together a good challenge to Sliema Wanderers and Floriana, winning eight championships between them, and three league trophies.

The 1980’s saw the monopolization of Sliema Wanderers and Floriana finally come to an end with four different clubs taking most of the honours in this decade. The Inauguration of the new national stadium, Ta’ Qali could have been a reason for this, with a large re-structuring of the Maltese league program to coincide with Maltese football’s new impressive home. Hibernians FC went on to win the Maltese league championship in 1981 and 1982, Rabat Ajax (formed 1930) won in 1985 , and 1986 , however the real surprise came from one of Malta’s oldest clubs, Ħamrun Spartans who won the league three times in 1983, 1987 and 1988 , and won a five league trophies. Floriana did win the league trophy in 1981 , although unfortunately were relegated to Malta’s second league in the season of 1985.

The last decades of the century saw the league format expand to its fourth tier, now with fifty clubs registered in the league. A diverse range of clubs now sharing the trophies in the Maltese league’s top tier to contribute to an entertaining and high quality semi-professional football league. Valletta enjoyed a golden age in the 1990’s winning five championships and four league cups. A re-juvenated Floriana won the championship in 1993 , as well as two league cups, and Sliema Wanderers, Ħamrun Spartans and Hibernians also picked up notable honours.

At present there are a number of clubs with the resources and capability of winning the championship trophy, which is now called the Maltese Premier League trophy. Birkirkara FC are the notable new force in the Maltese league, after winning their first championship in the year 2000 , and the team from Malta’s largest town has regularly picked up honours since propelling itself into the history books.

The Maltese Premier League, known as BOV Premier League for sponsorship reasons (colloquially known as Il-Kampjonat, Il-Lig, or Il-Premjer), is the top level league for football in Malta. The league was first competed in 1909. In the Maltese football system, there are three divisions under the Premier League, they are; the First, Second and Third divisions.

Prior to 1980, the top level of the Maltese Football League was known as the First Division, however it was renamed the Premier League and has stayed so since, with the First Division (formerly known as the Second Division) one level lower.  The league competition is based on two rounds. During every season, which is held between August and May, in the first round all the 10 teams play against each other two times. When each club has played 18 matches the division is split in two and points are halved. The first six teams participate in the The Championship Pool and the last four teams play in The Relegation Pool.

Based on league performance, there are three slots open for entry into wider UEFA organised competitions. Winners of the league are entered into the First Qualifying Round of the Champions League. Runners-up and third place clubs are entered into the First Qualifying Round of the Europa League. The last two teams in the relegation pool are relegated to the first division.  Additionally, a Maltese club qualifies for the Europa League if they win the Maltese Cup. This club qualifies directly to the second round of the Europa Cup.

The previous 10 winners of the Premier League have been:-

1999–00 Birkirkara
2000–01 Valletta
2001–02 Hibernians
2002–03 Sliema Wanderers
2003–04 Sliema Wanderers
2004–05 Sliema Wanderers
2005–06 Birkirkara
2006–07 Marsaxlokk
2007–08 Valletta
2008–09 Hibernians

This seasons 10 participating teams are:

Birkirkara – The Infetti Ground – Capacity: 12,500. From the town of Birkirkara, which is the largest town on the island of Malta. The club currently play in the Maltese Premier League and have been league winners on two occasions. They are one of six clubs to have won all five major honours in Maltese football.

Floriana F.C – Ix-Xagħra – Capacity: 3,000 From the town of Floriana that currently plays in the Maltese Premier League. It has the largest fans following on the islands and remain the most successful club in Maltese history, winning over one hundred domestic trophies in Maltese Football.

Dingli Swallows – Corradino Stadium – Capacity: 1,000. From the small town of Dingli. Were promoted this year as champions from the Maltese First Division to the Maltese Premier League for the first time in their history. In the Championship decider match they beat Vittoriosa Stars 2-1 at the Corradino Stadium on the May 19, 2009.

Hibernians – Hibernians Stadium – Capacity: 1,500. Hailing from the town of Paola, Malta. It is one of the top football teams in Malta. Hibernians F.C. are the current champions of the Maltese Premier League. The club was founded back in 1922, but football in Paola, Raħal Ġdid in Maltese, dates back to 1894. The team has a long successful story in its 85 year history. Hibernians is the only club that has always played in the Maltese top division. Hibernians were also the first team to represent Malta in a UEFA competition, in 1961. Hibs have obtained some notable results in the UEFA competitions including 0−0 draws in Malta against mighty European football giants Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Qormi F.C – The Ta’Qali Stadium – Capacity: 17,000. From the city of Qormi, which currently plays in the Maltese Premier League.

Sliema Wanderers – The Ta’Qali Stadium – Capacity: 17,000. The club was founded in 1909. The club competed in the first ever Maltese Premier League season in 1909-10 and finished in second position to Floriana after the five game season came to an end.  Ten years down the line Sliema Wanderers finally made their mark in Maltese football by winning the Maltese Premier League title in the 1919-20 season, since then the team have gone on to win the title 26 times; a record for Malta; the last three being in 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2004-05.  Sliema Wanderers also hold the record for the most FA Trophy wins, with their first coming in 1935, when they overpowered Floriana with a 4-0 victory. The club have gone on to win this particular honour 19 times, the last three of which came in 1990, 2000 and 2004.  With all these honours, along with many others, the fact is that Sliema Wanderers are currently the most successful team in the history of Maltese football.

Tarxien Rainbows – The Ta’Qali Stadium – Capacity: 17,000. From Tarxien, a town in southern Malta. They currently play in the Maltese Premier League. The club were founded as Little Rainbows in 1944, and will participate in the Maltese Premier League for the 2009/10 season. The club was promoted to the best division after finishing as champions in the Maltese First Division in 2007/08. In 2008/09 the club finished level on points with fellow strugglers Hamrun Spartans and Msida St. Joseph. Hamrun had the worst head to head record and were relegated, while Tarxien Rainbows managed to avoid relegation with a playoff-win over Msida St. Joseph.

Valletta F.C. – The Ta’Qali Stadium – Capacity: 17,000. Based in the capital city of Malta, Valletta. Valletta FC has a strong support by Maltese standards, with only Birkirkara FC coming close to matching Valletta’s fan base. Valletta achieved a lot of success in the 1990s, and were the dominant force around the turn of the century, before financial difficulties forced the club into a decline.

Ħamrun Spartans – Victor Tedesco Stadium – Capacuity: 1,800. The team of Ħamrun. The name Spartans is Greek name from Sparta , town in Greece. The team won the Maltese First Division in 2006-2007. Following the promotion to the Maltese Premier League the Spartans finished in 6th place in 2007-2008. Since being founded in 1907, the Ħamrun Spartans have won a total of seven league championships. They have also been eleven times runners-up. One of the stalwarts in the club history, Stefan Sultana, has scored at total of 252 goals in his career (whereof 225 while playing for Ħamrun Spartans), which makes him Malta’s top-scorer (per May 12, 2007).

Msida Saint-Joseph FC – The Ta’Qali Stadium – Capacity: 17,000. A club from the town of Msida, which currently plays in the Maltese Premier League. Msida SJ were relegated at the end of the 2008/09 season. Vittoriosa Stars and Marsaxlokk were both found guilty of corruption and were demoted thus Msida SJ and Hamrun Spartans were both reinstated in the Maltese Premier League.

About Ta’ Qali National Stadium – Capacity 17,000

The Ta’Qali is the national stadium of Malta. It stages top local league and cup matches, as well as international matches. The stadium seats 17,000 people, although for concerts it can accommodate up to 35,000 people (with people standing on the pitch). Although small by international standards, it is the biggest stadium in Malta.. It was built in 1980 and in 1981 it became Malta’s national football stadium replacing the Empire Stadium, Gżira.

Ta’ Qali is a village in Malta, a wide open space in the middle of Malta containing the national stadium, Ta’ Qali National Park and a national vegetable market which is locally known as the Pitkalija.  When the National Stadium at Ta’ Qali was on the drawing board almost four decades ago, little did we imagine that the place would one day become a multi-purpose centre which would develop into the state-of-the-art football complex it is today.

After the stadium was completed in the late seventies the Malta FA entered into the first of several agreements with the government in 1981 allowing the association its use. Two lease agreements followed in 1983 and 1987, and in 1997 the association was granted a title of temporary emphyteusis for 49 years.  These lease agreements enabled the MFA to make several improvements at the stadium, thus greatly enhancing its facilities. Amongst these was the re-building of the 5,000-seater East Stand, henceforth called the Millennium Stand. The place houses 22 executive boxes and facilities for indoor sport, besides providing areas for recreational and social activities.

There is also a garage underneath, catering areas and ample parking space around the stadium. All facilities at the stadium are easily accessible by means of several entrances.  The almost 20,000 all-seater stadium with a top of the order floodlighting system, has an excellent and durable natural turf pitch, which has had its surroundings along the perimeter embellished only recently. The place is the nerve-centre of football on the island, with all that goes with it, including a modern scoreboard, and new seats and fencing all around, as well as all the facilities for the Press.

The Malta FA’s Headquarters were moved to the Millennium Stand from Valletta in 2007, while the National Team Quarters, which cater for the physical well-being of our players, are recent additions to this complex. The living quarters, comprising a restaurant and leisure areas, the Conference/Lecture Hall, the Physiotherapy and the Technical Centre beneath the West Stand, the Fitness Centre and the indoor swimming pool under the East Stand, make the place a comprehensive location for footballers and athletes of every genre. Indeeed, many can benefit from these facilities.

This football complex not only attracts thousands of spectators every week for domestic and international matches, but also innumerable football administrators as well as coaches, referees and, naturally, the main actors of the game, the players themselves.  The stadium is currently home to 6 top flight clubs meaning that there will always be a game or two on every weekend during the season.

Malta International Airport (IATA: MLA, ICAO: LMML)

Website: http://www.maltaairport.com
Telephone: Tel: (+356) 21249 600

Luqa airport is the only airport in Malta, and it serves the whole Maltese Archipelago. It is located between Luqa and Gudja in Malta. It occupies the location of the former RAF Luqa and was completely re-furbished, becoming fully operational on 25 March 1992. It is still referred to by locals as Luqa Airport, and sometimes as Valletta Airport internationally, as it is located 5 km (3.1 mi) southwest of the Maltese capital Valletta.

The airport serves as the main hub for Air Malta, though many other airlines also fly to the airport, including many holiday airlines. The airport is operated by Malta International Airport plc, a public limited company. It also hosts the Area Control Centre. The airport hosts the annual Malta Airshow, visited by military and civil aircraft from various European and other countries.

Malta International Airport has been awarded the title of Most Noteworthy Airport for a New Small Budget Programme by Passenger Terminal World, the international review of airport design, technology, security, operations and management. The airport is classified among the top 15 airports worldwide joined those of Dubai, Brussels, San Francisco, Stockholm, Heathrow, Changi, Barcelona and Vienna, which were also awarded.

Ryanair fly here from Bournemouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, London Gatwick, Manchester, Newcaste and Norwich. Easyjet fly here from Liverpool, London Gatwick, Manchester and Newcastle too. In addition, AirMalta offer low cost flights from London Gatwick and Heathrow and Macnhester.

Malta International Airport is well-served by public transport. Bus number 8 leaves Valletta, passing through Floriana, Marsa, Paola, Tarxien, Ghaxaq and Gudja before stopping in front of the air terminal, and vice-versa from the airport to Valletta. Services run as frequently as every twenty minutes. There is also an airport to hotel shuttle service that can be pre booked online. Taxis are available 24 hours a day from the airport to any destination in Malta. Fixed rates are applicable and pre-paid tickets can be purchased from the ticket booth inside the Welcomers’ Hall on Arrivals.

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