The Malta Independent 2 March 2024, Saturday
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TMID Editorial: Malta’s colonial mentality rears its head again

Monday, 9 January 2023, 12:28 Last update: about 2 years ago

The absolute majority of history features Malta as a colony.  For centuries, Malta was ruled by one or the other foreign power.

The most recent such ruler was the British Empire, and Malta only gained its independence as a nation in 1964 and saw British military presence leave the islands in 1979.  In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a long time at all.

It is perhaps due to this that something of a colonial mentality still prevails in the country.

The establishment of our post-colonial identity has, particularly in recent years, been something of an effort to prove that Malta deserves to be an independent nation to be reckoned with on par with others.

The way in which that is being attempted is through attempts for success and progress: we want to prove that we are the best in Europe (as Joseph Muscat had insisted) and we are consistently fixated with comparing ourselves to how other countries are doing as a means of establishing our identity.

However amidst all that, Malta has drifted away from some of the things which have defined it in the past: some of its traditions have been slowly set aside, our architecture is not being valued, and neither is our environment, but to mention two examples.

And yet, at times we still suffer from what can be termed as a colonial mentality.  By that, we refer to a sense of over-awe at something foreign – a kind of pandering towards whatever it may be.

A picture of Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo donning a Manchester United tracksuit (and jersey underneath) for a football match between the women’s teams of Manchester United and Birkirkara is an example of this.

Now this must be prefaced by a couple of things: the work to bring Manchester United’s women’s team to Malta and to play against the local champions is important, both for the country’s tourism prospects – even if one of Paola’s dodgier roads made the headlines internationally – but also for the exposure that it gave to the women’s game. 

The friendly which was played on Friday was in front of a sell-out crowd – although one can argue that the crowd was in attendance more to see Manchester United than Birkirkara sadly – and hopefully it will have promoted further interest in women’s sport locally going forward.

The second thing to preface is that it’s perfectly fine for anyone to support a foreign football team, and there’s no reason why Clayton Bartolo cannot be an ardent Manchester United supporter himself.

However, with this being said, the minister – as a government official – should in this instance have separated footballing Church from State, so to speak.  Openly supporting a foreign team when they are playing Maltese opposition is not something to be particularly proud of, especially when you’re the person representing the government, and many on social media let him know this when the picture first emerged.

At least, Bartolo later took to social media to apologise if he had offended anyone with his misjudgement.

In a list of misdemeanours from government officials in the past years, this pales into insignificance in comparison – but at the same time it’s another small little anecdote that keeps the argument that Malta hasn’t quite shorn off its colonial mentality just yet.

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