Portelli continues to secure his legacy as Malta’s answer to Silvio Berlusconi

The Skinny - No. 176 - Portelli Plays a Beautiful Game

Joseph Portelli
Joseph Portelli

What are we skinning? Construction magnate and chronic sponsorship splurger Joseph Portelli’s declared desire to resign from his post as Hamrun Spartans president, so that he may pop up on the pitch occassionally for a few minutes of tackling and scoring for the club he apparently loves too much to man.

Why are we skinning it? Because it’s yet another ostentatious yet potentially strategically loaded move from one of Malta’s most prominent ‘patrons’ of... everything.

What do you mean by ‘everything’? Portelli – the big kahuna of JP Portelli Projects, lest we forget – is not only the brainchild behind some of Malta and his native Gozo’s most controversial construction projects: he is also a multi-sponsor of football and futsal teams, as well as a regatta and – crucially – the parish feasts of Zabbar and Nadur.

Why does he choose to spread his money far and wide in such a way? He claims it’s because he ‘enjoys others enjoying themselves’.

That’s noble enough. It’s also the reason why most people watch porn, but I digress...

Still, don’t you think your cynicism is a tad premature? This is one of the most powerful business magnates of the island we’re talking about here. Hardly a patron saint... despite what Nadur parishioners may have been thinking when they depicted him as St Joseph the Evangelist on the town’s festa banner.

But that’s down to them. It’s Portelli who created the conditions within which such adulation may occur, though. For better or for worse, and consciously or otherwise, he has tapped into an intricate – and anthropologically rich – symbolic network that assures his influence within traditional spheres of Maltese social life.

Would you rather he just acts out his mid-life crisis by splurging on sports cars instead? I’ll admit that Portelli’s ongoing bid for relevance may be more environmentally friendly than that of some of his compatriots, yes.

Ironic that you should cite the environment as something Portelli holds dear. Yes, which is why my metaphor should be relegated to the same fantasy-land in which Portelli signs on with Hamrun Spartans to be a legitimate player who now contributes to his beloved team on the ground, and on the ground alone.

Do you believe that his dream will pan out, though? It seems like the Malta Football Association may be willing to throw a spanner in that particular bundle of works...

How so? It seems as though former club presidents cannot in fact register as players within the same team, lest they face the wrath of the Association’s ethics committee.

Ethical wrath should be par for the course for our Joe, though. And so it goes...

Do say: “Portelli continues to secure his legacy as Malta’s answer to Silvio Berlusconi, with his attempts to curry favour within the socially potent worlds of local football and village feasts. This latest move cannot, therefore, be seen in isolation, or viewed through an innocent lens.”

Don’t say: “More time on the pitch, less time to plan construction monstrosities. I wish Mr Portelli luck in his healthy and otherwise environmentally sustainable new career path.”