Hello! My name is Karl Zahra, a 30 year old engineer from Malta! This is the first in a series of blog posts about padel here in Malta.
I was first introduced to the sport of padel around 3 years ago by my cousin Jean Galea. Jean lives in Barcelona and it was during one of my visits there that he introduced me to this fast-growing sport which he had picked up and happened to be an avid fan of.
I recall playing my first games during a Saturday morning meet-up at one of the many padel clubs in Barcelona. I was immediately hooked on to this sport. We actually kept on playing for hours on end that day and we returned the day after to play again!
Since then I have visited Jean a few times a year, each time spending the better part of my visit on the courts or watching amateur tournaments around the city. I apologize to my brother and my girlfriend for dragging them to the courts!
But why did I get attracted to this sport? I had never played a racket sport before nor picked up a racket in my life. I come from a background of football having practiced the sport daily since the age of 8 and played in almost all divisions of local football. So what was it that really attracted me?
The social and fun element of the sport is the first thought that springs to mind. Organised groups of people convening at a court, mingling, sharing their experiences and playing matches on rotation are the order of the day. I am Maltese but it felt like I was a local playing with friends. Although this was a friendly atmosphere, the competitive nature in matches really struck me as the Spanish take this very seriously and use such matches to hone their skills and increase their padel level.
Secondly, there was the ease with which I was able to pick up the sport. I am a sportive person who keenly follows tennis, however, as I mentioned before, I had never picked up a racket or stepped on a court before. Jean handed me one of his (many!) rackets and off we went to to one of the courts at this club.
The rules, strokes and movements on the court were not too hard to understand and could be picked up by almost anyone fairly quickly. The sport felt like a combination of squash and tennis, albeit with a little less intensity. It felt like a novel sport with so much potential to grow further. As I grew more fond of life in Barcelona (my frequent visits to the city are a testimony of this), I realized that padel was almost like a way of life for the Spanish. Courts have sprouted all over the city and people practice the sport almost religiously.
So came my next question…why can’t we have this sport in Malta? It seemed like a perfect fit for the country. Jean and myself had long discussed the possibility of one-day seeing this sport on the island and hopefully seeing grow to the levels of Spain. Fast-forward a few years and in mid-2019 we heard that the first courts were going to be set up on the island. Finally we got our wish!
In December 2019 the first court opened it’s doors and I quickly picked up my padel rackets and made my way to the courts on their first open day to, at long last, play padel on home ground. The first court at Salini is excellently built and offers a very good quality build, surface and equipment. I was very impressed. Since then a further two courts have opened in Pembroke. Again, the facility is brilliant!
Given that this is a fairly new sport to the Maltese, the interest and knowledge in the sport locally is still very lacking. There is very little awareness of this sport on the island. Most Maltese have barely even heard of the sport. In fact, I have only met a handful of Maltese at the courts since then. The rest of the people I met at the courts were mostly Nordic or Spanish people, either expats or on holiday on the island. There is a long way to go and much work is needed to improve this.
I have started to do my fair share of work on this myself as I have since started to entice my friends with the sport, taking groups of them to the courts every weekend to play for a few hours. The response has been very positive so far. Many have returned with me week after week to try their hand at the sport again whilst others have taken other friends or colleagues to play padel.
There is still a very long way to go to give this sport the attention it deserves in Malta. It is still early days but we are waiting to see what is in store in terms of leagues, tournaments, training, especially in view that more courts are planned to be opened in the coming months.
To continue engaging interest in padel, Jean and myself have launched a website and a WhatsApp group which we will be using to help padel enthusiasts meet, organize padel matches, and possibly even tournaments in the near future. We hope that this will increase awareness and interest in the sport and help to grow the sport as much as possible. I firmly believe that this sport is a perfect fit for Malta.
You can subscribe to the group by filling in the form on our Contact page.
More posts will follow about my experience with padel in Malta but, for now, it’s time to hit the courts for a few hours! Hasta luego!