The words ‘Thank You’ are totally inadequate when it comes to paying my gratitude and respect to the finest group of individuals it has ever been my honour to get to know. That is why it has taken me over a month to deliver this blog.
The Manchester United Supporters Club of Malta, and especially the heroes who run this epic organisation are the type of people we should all aspire to be like.
When Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Bryan Robson turned up in Malta to help them celebrate the 60th anniversary of the world’s oldest Manchester United Supporters Club, they did so with respect and admiration for a rare breed of people.
In a world where human values and loyalty are declining all around us, the unconditional and passionate pursuit of their love for the greatest football club on the planet is in itself a phenomenon.
These guys think nothing of making regular 4,000 mile round trips to watch their beloved Manchester United at the Theatre of Dreams. Win, Lose or Draw they are 100 per cent committed to keeping the Red Flag Flying High.
All photos by Kevin Cassar
But there is so much more to these amazing people than their fanatical and unrivalled obsession with the Red Devils.
The unbelievable way they welcome their friends and guests from around the world with genuine love and remarkable hospitality that is second to none makes them a breed apart.
They are simply different class. Their affection is manifest with such style, dignity, warmth and enthusiasm that it is impossible to visit without being permanently affected by the experience.
I know so many supporters and former Manchester United players who have fallen under their spell, and I am one of them.
Five weeks ago more than 90 visiting supporters representing Manchester United fans in over a dozen countries – from the USA to Australia, many parts of Europe, all parts of the United Kingdon, Ireland and of course Manchester – experienced first hand during a trip that culminated in a Gala Dinner attended by nearly 500 people why the Maltese fans are so special.
If I could wave a magic wand and give everyone on the planet the qualities and values possessed by the leaders of this organisation, the world would be so much better off, because we would all be living in heaven.
Every successful organisation needs a strong and committed leader, and in President Joseph Tedesco the Malta Supporters Club have a modest man of such integrity and warmth that my heart bursts with pride to know that he is my friend.
He is the first to stress that this is a team effort and the committee that runs the club is packed with extraordinary people who all play their part with pride and distinction.
Like the godfather, and gently helping Tedesco and co every step of the way is former president Joseph Glanville, a legendary figure who has known so many of the iconic players and managers down the years at Old Trafford. We call him Sir Joe and his links with the football club are priceless to the Maltese Supporters.
Then there is the founder and original president John Calleja, who kicked the whole thing off after forging a friendship with Matt Busby – destined to become Sir Matt of course – when he started writing to him before the Munich Air Disaster.
Calleja is a strong willed individual but even he never dreamt he would get to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the organisation he finally launched in 1959, a year after Munich. He too has become a good friend whose knowledge and memories I respect and never get bored listening to.
There are so many other special people – far too many to list here – who have made this Supporters Club so unique and wonderful down the years. Crucially there is also a formidable group who continue to guarantee this organisation is a light that will never go out.
The guys on the committee, who work so tirelessly to make events like the catalogue of unique experiences we have witnessed over the past year a reality, are genuine heroes in my book.
Their commitment is matched by the warmth and generosity of their hospitality. To be quite honest I now feel a huge weight of responsibility to repay the belief they have shown in me when they agreed to let me tell their story.
Only time will tell if I can live up to their expectations. I pray that I can do so with my film The Religion. And taking on the challenge without a budget or a single broadcaster commission is a certain kind of madness.
As a publisher I can at least guarantee that my film will be distributed on DVD and Pay Per View streaming services like Vimeo On Demand. Just how many broadcasters will be interested remains to be seen. My ambition is to licence the film to every country in the world when it is ready in October. But life is a gamble so who knows?
What I do know is that this is one hell of a story. That every Manchester United fan on the planet will feel proud of our Maltese brothers and sisters if I can convey what I have experienced since I started out on this journey back in 2016.
As a filmmaker, I pride myself on making films about people first and foremost, and my challenge is always to stimulate at least one human emotion that guarantees a lasting memory for the viewer.
In Malta I most certainly found the people and the content.
This evening, five weeks after the 60th anniversary celebrations of this unique organisation, it was a video montage of stills posted by President Tedesco – fittingly called ‘From Malta With Love‘ – that finally inspired me to write this blog.
Now I just need to finish that damned film.