Monday 20th January 2014 ko 20.15
Malta Youth League Section E
SWIEQI UNITED 3 (Grech 20 53 56p)
At Pembroke Athleta Ground, Pembroke
Andy and I found a street café on Sliema waterfront and contemplated life overlooking the azure bay with its views of Valletta. Life wasn’t bad, we’d got a free upgrade at our new hotel, the view from the balcony was spectacular, and there wasn’t a nervous pensioner in sight! Behind us the ferry over to Valletta chugged happily for a mere €1.50 each way.
It was soon time to catch the bus around the coast to Pembroke, Malta’s newest town. It, and adjoining Sweiqi are the most affluent part of the Island. The town is named after Robert Henry Herbert, the 12th Earl of Pembroke and British Secretary at War in 1859.
The town does rather well for football, as well Athleta’s ground, Melita, and Luxol St Andrews also have their grounds here, in fact the floodlights at Melita were clearly visible as we alighted the bus at Rigord. Getting here is easy, just take any bus for the Pembroke Park & Ride, or if you don’t mind a 10 minute walk, any bus to Swieqi.
Sweiqi (pronounced Swee-Hee) or to translate “water channels,” has Malta’s youngest club, United only being formed in 2009 from their highly successful youth section. They have a base in Pembroke, but that pitch is only large enough for 8-a-side, so Swieqi’s Third Division adult games tend to get played at the National Stadium, in Ta’Qali, but Athleta’s ground seems a far more convenient place for their youth team to play home games.
Athleta play in the Second Division and the ground has seen a fair amount of improvement in the last few years. The ground is now fully enclosed, and a viewing area built on top of the clubhouse. There is, as usual just the one side available for spectators, but the club has more excuses than most, the ground is at the end of a peninsula and at one end, once you’re beyond the fence behind the goal there’s the sea! It isn’t much better beyond the far side either, and its certainly closer to the sea than Arbroath! There’s building work in progress to extend that cover to the full length of the pitch and to install a lift up to the viewing deck.
But that isn’t what I’ll remember the ground for. Other than the beautifully appointed clubhouse, it was the friendly officials and staff I’ll remember. They got the line-ups sorted out for me, and I enjoyed the young Swieqi Ultras who once they realised they weren’t going to get thrown out for using a rattle used it with gusto!
The game, in the bottom division went exactly by the form book with visitors Mtarfa starting the match bottom of the table, and never looked like changing that sad statistic. Swieqi were made to work for their win, but in Karl Grech had the forward their visitors lacked.
As the game finished the winter wind began to whip across the ground from the Mediteranean and we were glad to grab a restorative coffee before catching the bus back to Sliema.