The visit of the Canadian national team in September 1973 raised a few eyebrows in Malta.
After all, the North Americans were certainly not among the top footballing nations at the time. Also, their visit was too early in the season to capture the interest of the Maltese public.
As a result, a meagre crowd attended the opening match of their tour against the Malta ‘A’ side on September 28, 1973.
Although ice hockey ranks much higher in popularity in Canada, soccer was already being played in the country in 1877 by the Dominion FA and later on by the Western FA.
In 1904, Galt FC represented Canada in the Olympic Games in St Louis and in 1924 the Canadian national team toured Australia where they played a few friendly matches against the host country.
After the war, the Canadians joined CONCACAF and FIFA and from then on the game slowly began to make advances. However, by the time Canada toured Malta in 1973, they were still trying to find their feet in the international sphere.
However, by 1985, under the guidance of manager Tony Waiters, the game had progressed so much that Canada qualified for the World Cup finals.
Malta coach Victor Scerri could not field a full team against Canada as he was unable to make use of the Sliema players who were abroad for the return leg against Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the UEFA Cup.
However, the Malta side was still too strong for the Canadians and without really reaching great heights, they beat the visitors by two clear goals.
The Canadians’ standard was far below that of the foreign teams that had toured the islands in those days. The hard pitch of the stadium did not help the visitors who never really managed to control the bounce of the ball.
Malta opened the scoring on 30 minutes.
A cross from Leli Fabri hit a defender and the ball rebounded to Louis Arpa who, upon seeing the keeper coming out to narrow the angle, shot low into the net.
In the second half, Malta took a firm grip on the game. They pressed Canada back in their own half and on 74 minutes a cross from Vince Magro was missed by the goalkeeper and there was sub Raymond Xuereb to stab the ball into the roof of the net.
The Maltese continued to dominate the game. More chances were created but no more goals were scored.
Two days later, Canada played their second and last game in Malta. This time their opponents were Malta Amateurs who were preparing for their commitments in the European Amateur Tournament against England and West Germany.
By this time, the Canadians were more familiar with the abnormal ground conditions. Showing more confidence on the tricky surface they took command of midfield from the start but never really dominated the Amateurs.
In the first half, Malta were forced to defend for long stretches but after the interval play evened up and the locals created a handful of chances and, with a bit more luck, they could have won the game.
At the end, however, the game ended in a 0-0 draw which, in the circumstances, was a fair result.
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