Ħamrun was a mistake, wasn’t it?

The Skinny | No 94 – Hardly Spartan Behaviour

What are we skinning? The spontaneous street party which erupted in the wake of the Hamrun Spartans winning the Premier League, in full violation of COVID-19 regulations but with the apparent blessing of the Environment and Planning Minister, who was photographed together with club owner and prime destroyer of Gozitan rural and urban landscapes Joseph Portelli.

Why are we skinning it? Because it’s a fantastic opportunity to pinpoint exactly what the country’s true priorities are.

COVID has certainly allowed for plenty of that, hasn’t it? Yes, a pandemic will force you into specific corners of thought and action that the complacent churn of ‘normal’ life would otherwise have not.

A football club’s supporters rowdily celebrating a win would certainly count as being incredibly normal during ‘normal’ times, yes. And Hamrunian rowdiness would be at the top of the pile of things to be the least surprised by.

So yes, COVID changes everything. It changes everything for a lot of people. But not, it seems, for football supporters keen to exercise their divine right to celebrate their club’s victory.

Why do you say that? Especially when considered against the background of performers and entertainers being forced to restrict their activities or face immediate legal retribution, the brazen way in which this all went down stings quite a bit.

But it’s now come out that over a hundred Spartans supporters were fined after all… What happens after the fact, and following a backlash from stakeholders, media and the general public, can hardly be lauded. Police presence on the night was undeniably subdued, and the fact that it all happened under the purview of the club owner and minister just puts the final cherry on the impunity cake.

There will always be rule-breakers though. Can’t performers just join their ranks if they really want to make a point? Now you’ve identified the nub of it all.

How so? Malta is populated by various shades of rule-breakers, each of which gets their own treatment.

And how would you classify football supporters within that category, then? Football supporters are a handy group for the authorities to coddle and protect. They represent a populist mass who can sway votes and whose salt-of-the-earth proclivities make them unproblematic makers of ‘traditional’ Maltese identity. Fully politically correct, and dependable.

Much like hunters, then. Yes.

So what about performing artists? The fact that the artists insist on performing (and even protesting) within the bounds of the law says it all. Their calls for ‘civilised’ rapprochement will be met with stonewalling and deafened ears when delivered to a system that has pretentions towards technocratic propriety, but which will ultimately always cede to base instincts.

In a fight between Charmaine Gauci and Joseph Portelli, the latter always wins. Yep.

Do say: “While the human factor of social gathering (and celebration) was always going to make for a delicate balancing act during a pandemic that has prohibited us from satisfying that innate and necessary need, the very fact that this celebration occurred under the purview of not just the club owner but also a cabinet minister - when entities such as artists and performers are forced to restrict their activities to near oblivion - smacks of both inconsistency and inconsideration.

Don’t say: “Hamrun was a mistake, wasn’t it?”