Over 17,000 fans are expected to throng the National Stadium for the much-awaited 2014 World Cup qualifier between Malta and Italy as, with 10 days to go, only 400 tickets are still up for grabs.
Bjorn Vassallo, the Malta FA CEO, expressed his optimism that the national team and the local fans will rise to the occasion on March 26. “Italy are ranked fifth in the FIFA rankings and as national team, we’re going to play one of the best teams in the world,” Vassallo told a news conference yesterday. “I’m confident that our players and fans will rise to the occasion and create a feast of football for everyone.”
Vassallo praised the progress made by our national team in the last two years, saying that the MFA’s objective for Malta to gain respect on the international scene is being achieved. The 400 unsold seats are in the Enclosure Side as the other three stands, Millennium, South and North, are full. The Italian FA (FIGC) have been allocated 805 tickets but only 400 fans are expected to attend. Around 200 media personnel are expected to cover the game.
“This will be the first time in many years that the our stadium will be full as the attendance for the match against Turkey a few years back was just over 14,000,” Vassallo said. Vassallo said that, despite the mammoth demand for tickets for the Italy qualifier, the Malta FA distributed around 2,000 free tickets to local football nurseries and other philanthropic entities.
On matchday, the stadium will open at 6.30pm and the Malta FA envisage that by 8pm, when Malta and Italy will start their warm-up, the venue will be full.
Vassallo said that the access roads around the stadium will be closed for traffic from the evening of March 25 and that the West Stand (enclosure car park) will be reserved for MFA guests on matchday.
Seating in the Millennium, South and North stands will be on a first-come first-served basis while spectators in the West Stand must occupy the seat indicated on their ticket. In case of group tickets purchased online, each ticket holder must produce a copy of the confirmation, with the barcode, at the gate.
Also yesterday, Norman Saliba, the Malta FA head of marketing, gave details about the Fan Park which the association, in conjunction with sponsors FXDD and Cisk, will set up at the MFCC for the Malta-Italy qualifier. “In the past, Maltese fans used to organise pre-match gatherings in different localities but we deemed it fit to introduce the concept of a fan park for this game,” Saliba said. At the Fan Park, which will house a big screen, merchandising stalls and a kids fun area, there will be activities for persons of all ages. Michael Schembri and Marco Debono, representing FXDD and Cisk respectively, also addressed the news conference.