Interview with Pierre Bonello
Creator, Author, and Webmaster of Forza Azzurri Statistics

"To honour all of those who made the Azzurro colours one of the greatest in world football history." Pierre Bonello

25 August 2006

Calcio Connection is very pleased to welcome a prominent Italian football historian from the enchanting Mediterranean island of Malta, Mr. Pierro Bonello. Mr. Bonello has created one of the premier historical websites that you will ever find about the Azzurri. His site is must reading for anyone who wants to appreciate the rich tradition of Italian calcio - full of pictures, player biographies, and a wealth of statistics from every game ever played by the Italian National Team. Forza Azzurri Statistics is the encyclopedia for Italian football, and I would encourage all interested in calico Italiano to take advantage of this wonderful nonprofit resource.

Mr. Bonello is a graphic designer by profession. His specialty is Exhibition and Museum Displays. For the past 20 years, he has worked in museums, and presently is associated with "Heritage Malta," which is the National Agency for Museums, along with Conservation Practice and National Heritage as an Executive responsible for Exhibitions, both permanent and temporary, in Malta and abroad. Throughout these years, he designed the permanent displays of the Malta Maritime Museum (First Phase Galleries), National Museum of Archaeology (Prehistory Section), National Museum of Fine Arts (Turner Room and New Galleries) and the Domus Romana. He also designed and coordinated more than fifty temporary exhibitions in Malta, Italy, Czech Republic, San Marino, Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Greece.

Pierre, benvenuto al Calcio Connection!

Steve Amoia (SA). Pierre, when did you create your website, and what were your motivations to develop what has become such a detailed reference source for Italian football fans?

Pierre Bonello (PB). It all started in 1998/99 when I was studying Html and web designing. Since I am not a theory person and always need to practice to really understand, I needed a subject to use for my new web site trial. From a very young age I have been a keen fan of the Italian National Team and in my teen years I started collecting and researching statistics on the Azzurri. Therefore it was natural that I should use this data to creating my trial website.

Although I never meant this site to be continued, it was a success from the start and along the way, through the positive feedback I received, I decided to continue with this project. And today, eight years down the line I am happy that I took that decision. I must here acknowledge the support I receive not only from the fans who visit my website and my friends, but especially the support of my wife Josian and our two kids, Maia and Marcello.

(SA) Please tell us a little about Maltese football? Do you have a professional league, and are there soccer schools similar to AC Cugini to train young players?

(PB) Maltese football has a very long history and the first games were played as far back as the late 1800's. This is nothing strange since Malta was a British Colony since 1815 and the game must have arrived very early with British sailors and soldiers. The first club was founded in 1890 and the 'Malta Football Association' was founded in 1900, one of the oldest in Europe.

Unfortunately, due to our size, Maltese football never left its mark in the international field although a small number of Maltese players played in England, Italy, Belgium and Germany. On the other hand a number of foreign players/coaches were involved with the Maltese football including the Italian Pietro Ghedin (National Coach of Malta 1992-1995, Assistant National Coach of Italy 1998-2004) and the Bulgarian Valeri Bojinov (currently with Juventus, played in Malta with Pieta Hotspurs).

In Malta we had a national league since 1910. It is composed in four divisions and although the vast majority of the players are amateurs, there are an increasing number of semi-professionals and professionals. Maltese clubs and National teams participate annually in the European competitions and the current President of the Malta Football Association forms part of the Executive Committee of UEFA (the European Football Confederation). Regarding young children training, all major Maltese clubs have their own Nurseries and I must say they are quite good nurseries, but lately a number of professional private football schools are also being established.

(SA) Besides football, how do Maltese enjoy their leisure time activities?

(PB) Football is by far the most popular sport/leisure activity in Malta although a number of other sports are also popular, namely Basketball, Volleyball, Athletics, Water polo, Hockey, Judo, Horse racing and Carting. But being a Mediterranean island, leisure activity is never missing especially those involving the sea. Being Latin people, the Maltese are quite leisure loving people are we are always ready for any new activity that reaches our shores.

(SA) I imagine that you receive RAI (Italian television) to follow the Serie A and the Azzurri in Valletta. Who is your favorite Italian club side, and is there any one team that is popular with the Maltese people?

(PB) First of all I must take this opportunity to clear a small mistake about Malta that is very common. Generally, Malta and Valletta are regarded as one and the same thing and this is nothing strange when one considers our size compared with most cities abroad. But in actual fact Valletta is the capital city of Malta and therefore it is one of a number of cities, towns and villages we have in Malta. Now back to the question.

Yes we receive RAI in Malta and its one of the main sources through which we follow Italian football. In fact up till fifteen years ago Italian television was our only link to the world outside besides the Maltese Television stations. An interesting fact is that a lot of Maltese learned Italian through watching RAI TV, including myself. Today this is changing radically with the introduction of Satellite TV and I have my doubts how much Italian my kids will learn from TV. My favorite Italian club is Juventus although I am very careful not to let this love for the Bianconeri interfere with my website where I must be neutral. Malta is a football-mad island, especially when the major competitions (World Cup, European Nations Cup, Euro Club Competitions) are on.

Due to our history and geographical position, the Maltese are divided in their football support between Italian and English football, although today small groups of supporters of Germany, Brazil, Holland and France are starting to grow. As a result, after every win (or lose for the opponents) of Italy or England we have celebrations in various squares and roads throughout the island. We have quite a large number of organised supporters clubs in Malta, the main ones being those of Juventus, Milan, Inter, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Bayern Munich. These clubs are very organised and have their own premises where they organise their activities. Other smaller supporters clubs are those of Roma, Fiorentina, Cagliari, Lazio, Torino, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspurs and Leeds United.

(SA) In 2004, the Republic of Malta was admitted as the smallest nation (population of about 400,000) into the European Union (EU). Has this development changed daily life on Malta, and what have been some of the economic or tourism benefits of EU membership?

(PB) Well, I think it is too early to start feeling major changes in the Maltese daily life due to the fact that we became members of the European Union. One must always keep in mind that Malta was always very close, economically and tourism wise, to Europe. Obviously such changes in issues concerning boundary crossing, customs, human rights, financial aid and job opportunities are already being felt and I am sure that more positive changes will be coming as we go along. For sure a major change will be in 2008 when we change our currency from Maltese Lira to the Euro. It is my opinion that our EU membership is a very positive step for such a small nation, but probably the really benefits will be reaped by our kids.

(SA) What innovations do you plan for your web site in the future, and how do you say "football" in Maltese? ;-)

(PB) Today 'Forza Azzurri Statistics' is my main hobby in life and I try as much as possible to keep it like that. Therefore, there are times when I cannot afford much time on its development but something new is always in the pipe line. I am currently researching the development of the Azzurri kit (shirt, shorts and socks) from the first match in 1910 till today. I am also working on two new pages of all the major honours/awards won by the Italian National Team and Italian Players individually. Other projects concern biographical profiles of all the Azzurri players, coaches and officials, stadiums that hosted the Azzurri, referees, listing of all the games of the Italian National team, etc., etc.

But my main dream is to eventually publish the history of the Italian National Team in English in book format, something very rear at the moment. Regarding how we say football in Maltese, well we say 'football'. The Maltese language is an old Semitic language which has its foundations in the Arabic Language, although we write in the Latin alphabet. But along the years a number of words from different languages belonging to those who colonised Malta found their place in the Maltese language, especially Italian, English and French words. Football is one of them although it is written 'futbol'. To be correct we have a name in Maltese for football which is 'Il-loghba tal-ballun' meaning 'The Game (Il-loghba) of the ball (tal-ballun)' but nobody uses it since it is too long.

Pierre, thank you very much for your contribution. Continued success with your excellent web site, and all the best wishes.

by Steve Amoia, AC Cugini CALCIO CONNECTION
Forza Azzurri Website