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Carcades, fireworks and flags as Italy win Euro 2020

Italy have been crowned the European Champions after beating England on penalties, taking the trophy back with them to Rome. The game remained deadlocked at 1-1 after 120 minutes of play and was settled in a dramatic penalty shoot-out that had the entire country holding their breath.

Malta took to the streets as carcades were reported across the island, with some even setting off fireworks, following arguably the most anticipated game in years. Before 9pm, the streets were eerily silent but this definitely changed when Italy were made champions.

Why are the Maltese so passionate about Italian v English football?

Well. The polarization between England and Italy football fans has a lot to do with the cultural legacy of post-war Italian television that was broadcast in Malta. This was challenged by the globalisation of club football and the fragmentation brought by Cable TV and live-streaming.

Surveys done by local newspaper MaltaToday regarding football sympathies indicate a degree of historical continuity. Although overall Italy supporters were slightly more numerous than England fans, demographic trends that previously favoured Italy in the perennial ‘old firm’ struggle between the former colonial rulers and our Latin neighbours, may be turning in England’s favour, as a new generation of largely untouched Italian TV takes over.

There is also a distinct link between football and politics on the Maltese Islands. The MaltaToday 2014 survey showed that while 47% of Nationalist voters support Italy, 46% of Labour voters support England. While PN supporters support for England was slightly less than it was in 2006, support for Italy among Labour voters increased by a remarkable 13 points.

This may have reflected the massive shift, which took place in the 2013 general election. The difference also resonates with the origins of the parties in the opposing sides of the language divide: the PN’s origins were in irredentism, it’s own leadership exiled to Uganda during the Second World War as a result of fascist sympathies. Labour, on the other hand, was born in the British-run dockyard where knowledge of English was indispensable. Irredentism was dealt a fatal blow in the Second World War and under Mintoff, the Labour party became more assertive in confronting British colonial authorities.

In 1956, 77% of referendum voters voted for Malta to be integrated into the United Kingdom. Nationalist voters boycotted the plebiscite in opposition to integration, and Mintoff’s anti-colonial belligerence ended up driving the British middle-class to the Nationalist party.

Why are we still so affected?

Surely, the Maltese must have moved on from the fact that we were colonised centuries ago. According to anthropologist David Zammit, who was interviewed by Times of Malta, people’s relationship with football locally, is similar to their relationship with village feasts and politics.

“In all these fields you see people forming parties to support a club, saint or political party. These factions then engage in ritualised warfare, filled with creativity, energy and barely concealed violence. In football, this violence is channeled and ritualised so as not to cause problems most of the time,” he said. In football’s case, the rituals involve carcading, taunting adversaries and singing praises.

In reality, on a small island such as Malta, where people must try their utmost not to antagonise others as they must live in close proximity to them, football provides an outlet to vent the pent-up emotions generated by the competitive envy characteristic of small, homogenous society that we call ‘pika’,” he added.

What did you think of the Euro 2020 final?