Will popular American sports make it to Malta?

While numerous American sports take off around the world, is there a possibility that they could find a place in Malta as well?

For a country of only 500,000 people, Malta has a unique and passionate love for sports and athletics. Football and water polo will always be popular here, but there is potentially room for other sports to spread on this Mediterranean archipelago. While numerous American sports take off around the world, is there a possibility that they could find a place here in Malta as well?

Basketball

 

Interestingly enough, basketball is massively popular across Europe, but it seems as though it has yet to take off in Malta. In neighboring countries like Greece, Italy and Spain, basketball has a huge presence and a lot of professional NBA players have come from these areas like Nicolo Melli, Marco Belinelli, Ricky Rubio, and the wildly successful all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo. With so many talented players building up the interest for basketball in their home countries, it must mean that the interest is growing in nearby Malta as well, right?

There has been somewhat of a presence here but it is far from a favorite pastime. The international basketball team of Malta regularly competes at European tournaments like the Games of the Small States of Europe (GSSE) playing against other smaller countries like Iceland and Monaco. Malta has also been a member of the Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) since 1967 and has even won gold in the sport at the 2018 FIBA European Championship for Small Countries.This demonstrates that there may be some interest but basketball has a long way to go if it ever wants to be as popular as sports like football.

If you are intrigued and want to give the sport a shot, right now is possibly the best time to tune in. The NBA playoffs are currently underway, meaning several more games of the most talented teams in the league competing against each other. One of the best teams to watch is the Los Angeles Lakers. Currently, the Lakers have clinched their playoff position and are on to the final round. They have some of the strongest NBA betting odds and if they win here they will go on to play for the championship. If you’re willing to give it a chance, you'll find that basketball is an immensely exciting sport that is worth the time spent watching. 

Mixed martial arts

Mixed Martial Arts or MMA is often called the “fastest growing sport in the world.” While it may not be appealing to everyone, it is very exciting and truly brings together some of the most athletic individuals in the world. MMA is a combat sport where the competitors must train in a wide variety of martial arts disciplines to perform well including wrestling, boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and more. If you happen to enjoy boxing or other combat sports, MMA is certainly worth tuning in for. 

So with this sport growing massively every year, is there potential for it to take off in Malta as well? The answer is multi-faceted. On one hand, viewership of MMA is spreading to almost every European country. Recently, huge developments have been made in Eastern European countries like Romania and Lithuania for exclusive streaming deals with the UFC, the largest MMA league. The expanding interest in the sport cannot be denied, and there is no reason that it couldn’t find an audience here in Malta as well. It may appeal to citizens here because it is so vastly different from other sports. While basketball is a team sport that is comparable to many others, MMA truly stands alone.

For this action-packed sport to truly take off in Malta, there would need to be some involvement in it and therein lies the big challenge. Sports like basketball and football do not take much to play, more often that not just a ball. MMA requires a lot of dedication and expertise, as well as gyms and locations to train in. This takes funding and an appropriate amount of space. Without a dedicated base of athletes that compete in the sport, it may be hard for it to find roots in Malta. Also, the MMA tradition of athletes leaving their homes to train overseas at better gyms is still common. Luckily, the sport has taken off in neighboring Italy and Greece, so there almost certainly will be some influence in Malta over the years as well. Whether or not these American sports can truly ever be represented here is something only time will tell.

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