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Sports Development in the Maltese Islands

Local sports organisations continue to mushroom post-Independence

In last week’s article I gave a review of how the British influence impacted sport in Malta.

Today I will focus on the increase in the number of sporting organisations that were formed on the islands after the country’s independence in 1964.

Wrestling was introduced in Malta by Simon A. Bonello when he got a number of youths interested in taking up the sport way back in 1967.

During the same year the first club under the name of E.K.L. Gudja was formed with the Federazzjoni Maltija Lotta being established in 1969 by the same Bonello.

A year later the Archery Association of Malta was founded, however, the first shoot in Malta, using bows and arrows, goes back to December 1959 when Mr. K.O. Evans, who was stationed in Malta with the British Services, affixed a sign in the Officers Mess at the RAF at Ta’ Qali (Attard).

Thirty British servicemen applied and formed the first club, ‘Bowmen of Malta’, and on March 20, 1960 the first competition was organised at Ta’ Qali.

Two years later the Navy personnel stationed at Ħal-Far (Żurrieq) and Kalafrana (Birżebbuġa) formed the second club, ‘Falcon Bowmen’, with their first competition held in 1963 until a year later both clubs amalgamated under the name of ‘Falcon Bowmen of Malta’.

Post-independence, the sport was taken up by a good number of locals leading to the foundation of the present national association.

Judo was relatively unknown in Malta until the 1950s when it was organised by the services alongside with karate and jujitsu.

These same people allowed civilians to join in and in 1970 Joe Caruana joined one of these classes as Black Belt 1st Dan.

Two students of Caruana, Tony Tanti and Envic Galea, opened three other judo clubs in 1971. These were the Żebbuġ Judo Club, the Royal University Judo Club and the MCAST Polytechnic Judo Club.

A year later, the Malta Judo Association, today renamed as Malta Judo Federation, was officially launched on May 26, 1972.

The origins of the game of volleyball in Malta are traced back to the era of when British servicemen were stationed on the island, yet it was not before 1973 that the Malta Volleyball Association was set up.

Villa Rosa Hotel, in St Julian’s, was the first outdoor venue to host the Men’s National League before being transferred to Stella Maris College, Gżira and then to Manoel Island until switching to indoors at the Ta’ Qali Pavilion in the late seventies.

Female events were transferred indoors in the early eighties with matches being played at St Andrews Gymnasium (Swieqi) and the Libyan Cultural Institute at Ta’ Giorni (St Julian’s).

Two years later the Malta Tenpin Bowling Association was formed after the sport was introduced in Malta in 1966 when the Msida Bowling Centre was opened to the public.

It had ten fully automatic AMF lanes and the sport was organised by the Centre itself, with most of its patrons being members of the Armed Forces stationed in Malta and oil rig companies’ personnel who used to reside here at the time.

Until in 1975, a group of bowlers led by Julian Pace Bonello, set out to organise the sport and, in fact, by September of that same year, gave birth to the national body.

The Royal Malta Yacht Club’s origins date back to the 19th century during the British rule in Malta. Over the decades, races were organised in prominent locations such as the Marsaxmetto Harbour (Valletta), Għadira Bay (Mellieħa) and St Paul’s Bay.

For over 40 years its premises were based at Manoel Island (Gżira) before moving to the current premises in Ta’ Xbiex in 2008.

RMYC Involvement

The heavy involvement of the RMYC, spanning over a century, led to it leading the way for the Malta Sailing Federation, formerly known as Malta Yachting Federation, to be established in 1975.

The same year also witnessed the foundation of the Malta Amateur Weightlifting Association. On his return from Australia in 1971, Charles Mifsud, himself an Australian junior and senior weightlifting champion between 1962 and 1970, started his efforts to introduce the sport in Malta.

In fact, he managed to realise his dream when, following a series of meetings at the Half Way House at San Gwann, the Malta Amateur Weightlifting Association was founded in 1975 with the first competitions also being organised at the same premises.

Karting in Malta was introduced by the British Military Services during the sixties with the Maltese having a difficult time trying to watch or participate in the sport as racing took place around the service roads at RAF Safi.

Yet, some locals did manage to take part. In May 1967, the circuit moved to Ħal Far (Żurrieq) with another shift registered two years later to another site in Ħal Far.

With the British Services’ departure in 1979 karting was brought to a temporary halt until later during the same year the Island Karting Club was formed with a series of local championships held on make-shift tracks at Ta’ Qali (Attard) and Ħal Far.

Karate in Malta officially commenced way back in 1972 under the patronage of the 41st Commando Group stationed at St Andrews Barracks where classes were also offered to the local public as well as inside the once Prince Cinema in Birkirkara.

The style practiced was Wado Ryu and the first instructor was Edge Carter.

In 1979, the style of Karate practiced in Malta was changed to Shotokan and subsequently, the Malta Karate Association was formed.

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