While dad was hospitalized, ironically, he was voted the best local referee of all times by the Maltese public. A museum was also opened to celebrate past referees and the first opening of this museum was in honour of my beloved dad. Unfortunately, my dad could not be present for the inauguration. Instead, he was fighting for his life in hospital.
Throughout, Mr. Paul R. Chetcuti, a scientist who specialises in alternative health treatments, used to inform me that there is continuous blood flow to my dad’s brain, adding that this is a good sign. But he used to tell us that his heart is under a lot of stress and to pray that it does not give in. So much so, that when my dad was transferred to ITU 1, where we could finally be close to him and touch him, his heart was beating so fast, that it was as if he ran up a mountain, almost coming out of his chest.
My mother recalls that before she started dating my dad, she used to often catch him running past her house, to a nearby football ground, to play football. At the age of 27, my dad decided to become a football referee and did not look back. He took this career seriously and retired at the age of 46, as per regulations. He was looked upon as taking fair decisions, albeit controversial and hard. He refereed very difficult games, like the 1998 decider between Valletta and Birkirkara.
At the age of 37, my father was also nominated FIFA referee where he refereed foreign games abroad. In order to keep up with this discipline, my father used to train twice a day and he even ate a very healthy diet. I also remember him weighing food. He never smoked and never drank alcohol, except a beer on occasions. His workplace Maltacom had seen potential in him and sponsored him so that he can use the time to train and go to the gym.
Referees had to do Cooper Tests at that time, in order to be able to continue with their career. This Cooper Test consisted of a 12 minutes run around the Marsa track. My father always broke the record, a record which still holds on up to this day – this is of 7 laps and three quarters in 12 minutes. He was also sent to Spain to train and do this Cooper Test with the best referees of the world. Here he was nicknamed “Speedy Gonzales”, because of his phenomenal speed.
My father also used to take part in marathons and races and he did a half marathon in 1hour 22 minutes, coming first in his age group.
I thank you God for guiding my father to keep fit and take sport and health seriously when he was younger. This kept his body going when, in other circumstances, it would have given up. In the Bible, Corinthians 6: verse 19, we are told “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” This clearly tells us that we should also take care of our bodies, of which we are responsible. We all know what is healthy and what is not and what we should do.
I am proud of you dad. You are a warrior. You did not give up at hospital and up till this date, you grind your teeth, do physio daily at home and now you even started going for walks and driving your car, though under our surveillance and that of mum!
Shame on the local authorities which not only fail us in providing adequate state of the art parks and places where ALL kinds of sports can be practised but which have also banned races, leagues and closed gyms as part of the latest restrictions, at a period when people should be encouraged to be healthier, instead of being enclosed inside. While it is true that they have relaxed their measures, and are allowing walking, power walking, jogging, running and athletic activity, fitness and dance sessions with adequate social distancing of 2m, the gyms are still being kept closed but then are allowing gymnastics.
I therefore call all the gym owners and sports enthusiasts to protest.