At the interval, the best thing to happen, for us anyway, was the sight of Akos Buzsaky himself, warming up under the eye of one of the coaches. Akos spent the whole fifteen minutes of half-time warming up, seemingly ready to come on at the resumption but then sat down with the rest of the subs as the game re-started. I know I am biased, but what the hell the Hungarian coach, Dutchman Erwin Koeman, saw in the players he had on the pitch that made them better than Buzsaky, I have absolutely no idea, they were terrible. Not as terrible as Malta it has to be said, who failed to manage even one shot on target in the entire 90 minutes, but still pretty bloody hopeless. By this time we had worked out that Zoltan Gera was struggling to play up-front with Torghelle and Peter Halmosi was trying his best to create something worthwhile down the left hand side. Quite why we tried to sign the Hungarian winger when he was at Plymouth, I have no idea on this performance ? He struggled to get past his marker who would have looked far more at home in a pub team !
But then the magical moment arrived in the 70th minute when the Buzzmeister was introduced for the plodding Balazs Dzsudzsak of PSV Eindhoven, although not of their 1st team I suspect. The game changed immediately as Buzzer took charge of the midfield and sprayed a few passes hither and thither and suddenly Hungary looked like they might actually manage another decent attempt on goal. They didn’t it has to be admitted and apart from one pretty awful corner and a free kick that hit the wall, Buzzer’s effect on the game was I’m afraid, negligible. I suspect he will start the next game though as he most definitely looked the best player on the pitch for the last quarter of the game and that is not just my impression but also of Bjorn, whose little car burst out of the VIP area, through a crowd of celebrating Magyar fans and television crews filming them, to take us back to our hotel.
It has to be admitted that the goal apart, this game was almost as terrible as the one back in Budapest. Malta were absolutely appalling and I doubt if they would have scored if they had played all night. Michael Mifsud ran around a lot but received absolutely no support of note throughout the entire game. They made just one chance in the entire match and missed it so poorly that the goalie didn’t even have to make a save. For Hungary, admittedly they never looked like letting one in but they didn’t really look like adding to their lead either, although they at least forced the Malta goalie into a couple of saves late on. Quite why they didn’t call up the fit-again Tamas Priskin from Watford, I have no idea. I suspect that the aforementioned Erwin Koeman’s reign at the Hungarian FA may well be a short one.
Bjorn very kindly gave me a copy of the official match programme (only available in the VIP section apparently) on the way back and said that the Maltese head coach was contemplating resigning after their poor performance. To be honest, I’m surprised he was given the option. Bjorn as ever was in a terrific hurry as he had to write the match report for the Maltese FA, two national daily papers, a few magazines and the odd website. Twice on the way back his pile of notes fell off the dashboard as we screeched back around presumably the same corners we had done earlier. No laptop journalism here ! Not much in the way of health and safety either. He said that I had to buckle up my seatbelt as the Police were very hot on that sort of thing and then drove the entire way back passing several Police patrols with his mobile phone jammed firmly to one ear.
Malta is a crazy place to watch football but good fun as we found out the following weekend when following a few more days lazing in the sun we went back to Ta’Qali to watch some Maltese Premier League action. This time however, there were no lifts involved just slogging it out on the Maltese bus services – what a pain they are – literally ! The only public transport on the island is the local bus company, made up as I have already mentioned of antique equipment that you would only see in the UK inside a museum. They might be very pretty and quaint to look at but to travel any distance in they are absolutely spine tingling, in more senses than one.
Not only that but they have a strict timetable and that doesn’t include weekend football at Ta’Quali where most of the Premier League matches are played every Saturday and Sunday, only International matches are catered for. Firstly the buses that are supposed to go there don’t actually do that, they stop a breath tugging 20 minute walk away, if they actually stop at all. But worse than that, the last one back to any kind of civilisation leaves just after half-time during the second match of the daily double header (at 18.30) meaning that unless you have a car or the money to pay a rip-off taxi driver (that aren’t seen dead at the National Stadium anyway) the only way you find the results are by buying the next morning’s papers. In fact, that is the only way I could see of finding out much of anything about the matches as there are no programmes, team sheets or anything else for that matter are available at the stadium.
Bloody shame having to leave early really cos the best two games of the four on offer were naturally enough the two of which we missed in the second half, with inspiring fight backs in both of them. Still it could of been a lot worse. A pint of draft beer was three Euros and excellent hot dogs were only one Euro each and you could take your beer into the Stand and watch the game. How bloody civilised ! I say ‘Stand’ as only the main one was open, with the two sets of fans having one end each while a profusion of Police occupied the VIP section in between to keep them apart. I didn’t realise just how passionate they were in Malta for their teams but the way they decorated their own sections with huge banners and flags put much bigger teams in Europe to shame.
The best bit though was between the two matches each day when the fans of the team that had just played, had to take their colours down whilst the fans of the next team to play put theirs up at the same time. Some teams like the league’s minnows Tarxien Rainbows had no banners whatsoever. Others like league leaders Birkirkara had so many they didn’t seem to know which ones to put where. With everything from a full twelve piece brass band from Floriana down to a lone drummer for Hibernians of Paola and from the chanting braying mob from Sliema Wanderers (complete with smoke bombs) to the dancers from Hamrun Spartans. We had a great time – and a whole heap of goals too, eighteen altogether in the four games we saw (including the one’s we didn’t if you know what I mean). Not the biggest crowds in the world sure, but the few hundred from each club (except Tarxien Rainbow’s and ex-Arsenal player Brian Talbot’s club Marsaxlokk) sure knew how to make a noise and let their players know they were behind them.
So that was that then, a rare and all too brief sighting of Buzsaky in a Hungarian shirt, eventually, another crap game of International football but a smashing week in the sun and some half decent local footy to go with it. And the two things I learned ? One, stop going to International football, its dreadful and two, if I ever go back to Malta to see any football…..HIRE A BLOODY CAR !