Usain Bolt's next destination? Five things to know about Valletta FC
Sandwiched between Guyana and Macau in 183rd place in the FIFA World Rankings are Malta, an island in the central Mediterranean with a population of 440,000. And this is where the ambitious new owners of Maltese champions Valletta FC are hoping eight-time Olympian Usain Bolt continues his football journey.
ESPN exclusively revealed Valletta FC have tabled a two-year offer to the Jamaican superstar, after his trial with Central Coast Mariners in Australia saw him net two goals last week, and they want him to spearhead their plans to bring Champions League football to Malta.
If Bolt wants any help in learning about his potential new home, we have drawn up a handy guide. Here are five things to know about Valletta FC.
They have had domestic success
Valletta FC are the current BOV Premier League champions, having won their 24th title by three points last season (their seventh title since 2000). They also have 14 FA Trophies and 11 Super Cups to their name.
The "Lilywhites" have long tried and failed to get past the first round of the European Cup/Champions League and UEFA Cup/Europa League, having lost out to the likes of Juventus, Inter Milan, Leeds United, FC Porto and Rangers over the years. Their charge under Serbian coach Danilo Doncic this season lasted until the Europa League second qualifying round when they fell to Bosnia-Herzegovina's Zrinjski Mostar 3-2 on aggregate.
They celebrate with a funeral
The club's supporters celebrate winning the league by going on a "funeral march," a feature of the Valletta carnival.
The fans parade coffins of the 13 teams who finished below them in the standings. The ritual first sprung up in the 1990s when the team defeated Floriana and supporters paraded a casket draped in the team's green and white colours. Now they try to keep a straight face with tourists watching on as the club's anthem -- Forza Valletta City -- blares out on speakers.
Their owners have big plans for the future
Abu-Dhabi-based Sanban Group took over Valletta FC in September, purchasing a 70 percent controlling stake in the club. The group's primary interest is real estate but, alongside chairman Victor Sciriha (who has been in office since 2007), they have big plans for the Maltese side.
"Our intention is to ensure that Valletta FC will have a bright future," a representative from the Sanban Group said. "It is our goal to make the team more competitive and we are already planning to strengthen the team with a number of high quality signings in the next few months. We want Valletta FC to play in Europe, to reach the group stages of the Champions League and be competitive."
Their futsal team is good
The football team has designs for the Champions League, but their futsal team are already dining at Europe's top table after making history to seal their place in the knockout stages last month.
They are currently in Group 8 alongside Lithuania's Vytis, Slovakia's Futsal Klub Lucenec and Azerbaijan's Araz Naxcivan. But so far it's been a slow start to life in Europe, with one draw from three games.
They play at the Malta national stadium
The club's origins began in St George's Square -- opposite the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta -- when they were founded in 1943 (having previously been called Valletta United), but they are now settled in the middle of the island at Malta's national stadium in Ta' Qali, a full 10km from their old home.
While just over 35,000 fans packed into the stadium in 1986 for their World Cup qualifier against West Germany -- a game Malta lost 3-2 -- the current ground seats just under 17,000.
The national team and Valletta play on a hybrid grass surface, while there are plans to construct a new futsal hall near the stadium.
Ta' Qali has been a happy hunting ground for England's youth side who beat the Netherlands there on penalties to win the 2014 UEFA Under-17 European Championship.