Watch: A walk through Gżira’s stadium of dreams

Stadium remains abandoned after last match in 1981

Footage has emerged online of a walk through the remains of what once was Malta’s theatre of football dreams.

A YouTube video shows the surface of the former Gżira Empire Stadium buried under the weight of grass and dead plantation.

The stadium has remained abandoned since it closed its doors in 1981, despite the overwhelming construction dwarfing its existence at the centre of Gżira.The only memories still remaining are the surrounding walls, the shell of the grandstand on the northern side and pockets of terracing remain.

The small dressing rooms still stand – where a graffiti on the wall says “no to modern football”.

The stadium was used between 1921 and 1981, and hosted some of the world’s legendary footballers – from Bobby Charlton to Franz Beckenbauer.

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<p>Part of the crowd that gathered for the Malta-England match at the old Gżira stadium in February, 1971.Part of the crowd that gathered for the Malta-England match at the old Gżira stadium in February, 1971.

The hard-sand surface stadium hosted the very first international match for Malta in 1957 against Austria.One of the highlights at the stadium was the Malta vs England clash in 1971, in which Malta suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat.

Malta vs England in 1971.Malta vs England in 1971.

It was the stadium where local football greats like Ronnie Cocks and Tony Nicholl wowed the crowds and it was the scene of Malta’s national team matches, many of which ended in defeats though there was the odd moment of glory. Watch: Student’s documentary recalls old Empire Stadium.

One of the those bright moments came in February 1979, when Malta held the mighty West Germany to a scoreless draw, with the help of footballers like John Holland and Ray Xuereb and a packed crowd.

But the 1970s also saw the decline of the stadium with local and foreign teams complaining about the infamous hard surface before it closed its doors and football migrated to the Ta’ Qali stadium.

The Empire Stadium in its 1930s heydays. Note the wooden fence, built as part of a project to hold greyhound racing. The fence was removed in 1951 when the ground was given a general facelift.The Empire Stadium in its 1930s heydays. Note the wooden fence, built as part of a project to hold greyhound racing. The fence was removed in 1951 when the ground was given a general facelift.

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