The Europa League second qualifying round draw has been exceptionally kind. And should the Blues as expected, defeat the Maltese minnows, then there could be further good fortune in tomorrow morning’s third qualifying round draw.
The winners of the game scheduled for Belfast on 17 September could face the winners of Flora Tallinn v KR Reykjavik or KI of The Faroe Islands, each of these prospective opponents eminently beatable.
Of course there are more difficult possibilities like CFR Cluj, Dinamo Tbilisi and Djurgardens also lying in wait.
Either way, The Blues must not get ahead of themselves. They must get the job in hand done first.
Floriana is the only Maltese club ever to reach the first round of the European Cup (or Champions League) since the qualifying rounds were introduced in 1992. This happened the year after, when they defeated the Vilnius club, Ekranas, who were champions of Lithuania, re-discovering itself as an independent nation again. Floriana won both legs 1-0, before succumbing creditably to Porto (0-2 on agg.) in the first round proper.
The Greens have suffered some particularly heavy defeats on their European travels, including in two ties since the turn of the century. Floriana has qualified for Europe only four times in the new millennium, but against Sweden’s Elfsborg they lost 0-12 on agg. in 2012/13 and the previous year it was AEK Larnaca of Cyprus who handed out a 0-9 spanking.
They will arrive in Belfast as significant underdogs, but upon visiting the city Floriana will be getting closer to some old historical roots.
The green and white colours of Floriana didn’t happen by accident. Their other nickname ‘Ta-I-Irish’ means The Irish, a direct reference to their close relationship to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who were stationed in Malta, then a British colony in the early 1900’s.
Floriana played a series of matches against the British regiment, a total of four in 1904/05. The regiment won the first two, the third was tied and Floriana won the fourth after which they swapped shirts with the green and white striped Fusiliers who would shortly depart for India.
The green and white stripes were thus adopted from that point on.
It’s probably just as well, for had Floriana retained their original colours, Bluemen might have had to be excused for thinking their old Belfast rivals, Glentoran had gate-crashed their up-coming evening.
But the Maltese gave away their green and red quartered shirts and black shorts to the Dublin Fusiliers!