Bars around the island are gearing up for some of the busiest days of summer as football fans prepare to soak up the World Cup that kicks off in Russia today.

The curtain rises on the biggest event in world sport at 4.30pm with the opening ceremony at the Luzhniki Stadium, in Moscow, half an hour before the opening game between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The match heralds a month of near-daily matches before the final on July 15.

Maltese supporters will not be able to cheer on Italy this year after they failed to make it through qualification while England’s first appointment comes on Monday against Tunisia.

All games will be broadcast live on TVM. For many, the tournament is a chance to get together with friends and other fans in one of the many bars and outdoor screening areas showing the matches around the island.

Melchior Vassallo, organiser of the massive screening area at Spinola Bay, in St Julian’s, told Times of Malta that he was not overly concerned that Italy’s absence would contribute to dampen enthusiasm.

I think there’s going to be a lot of interest in all the games

“There are so many nationalities and so many passers-by I think there’s going to be a lot of interest in all the games,” he said. “People aren’t that used to coming out in the afternoon so, at first, I expect the evening matches to be busiest. However, once the big games start, people would even take time off work to watch the games – probably their bosses will have taken time off too,” Mr Vassallo said.

England's Harry Kane during training.England's Harry Kane during training.

The sentiment seems to be widespread, with a Farsons spokeswoman saying the company had experienced an uptick in beer sales ahead of the World Cup – particularly Budweiser, the tournament sponsors – as bars looked to ensure their patrons were well-watered during games, though the company also stressed the importance of responsible drinking.

For those looking for a somewhat alternative way of enjoying the games, the Malta Football Association has teamed up with Teatru Malta, the national theatre company, to screen a number of matches at the National Stadium Trophy Lounge, in Ta’ Qali before performances of Game, a new play about football by playwright Brad Birch, staged at the stadium itself.

Meanwhile, bringing a more sober tone to the preparations, the police yesterday urged spectators watching games in public places to be vigilant against pickpocketing during mass events.

The police said in a statement – released as part of a European Crime Prevention Network campaign – that such events were a “paradise” for pickpockets and that the crime had severe consequences for victims who not only had to replace their stolen goods but also often harboured feelings of insecurity.


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