Gozitan swimmers are in a perpetual state of frustration as their island remains without a national swimming pool.
It’s been years in the making, but Gozo’s national pool has no clear end in sight, prompting many frustrated swimmers and athletes to speak up and voice their frustrations on an online pressure group.
“This group has been created to form a united group where we could if need be, put pressure on authorities, discuss issues on the pool, perhaps organise events to raise awareness on the need of a pool in Gozo, ensure that we get a good deal should the pool be actually built,” said admin Darren Mercieca.
Gozitans have been fighting for a pool for the good part of two decades now, yet time and time again, they are being let down by bureaucratic red tape.
Their frustrations have now reached boiling point, and swimmers, athletes and the general public alike have had enough.
“We feel that not having a public heated pool classifies us as second class citizens,” Mercieca told Lovin Malta. “This statement should not be taken lightly.”
“It’s a shame that the government authorities cannot see that investment in local sports is an investment in health, in the economy, in mental and physical illness prevention as well,” said personal trainer and former PE teacher Vince Stivali.
The problem of not having a national swimming pool is a year-round one, despite the fact that there is the option to train in the sea during the summer.
The situation has become so dire that waterpolo players have no choice but to practice their sport in a gym studio on mats because of the lack of a national pool.
Gozo not having a national swimming pool affects many more than just the Otter’s waterpolo team – it affects the nation as a whole.
Maltese athlete Fabio Spiteri teaches a group of 20 children who have to make the trek all the way from Gozo to the National Pool in Tal-Qroqq just to train.
“These children travel four hours to come train at the pool for one hour,” said Fabio. “All because they don’t have a pool in Gozo.”
“Having a pool in 2020 is a basic right,” he continued.
Some had to even abandon the sport because it was too much of a commitment.
There are also others who need a heated pool to carry out their physical therapy, but they too are being denied the ability to take care of themselves.
In 2016, Former Minister for Gozo Minister Anton Refalo and Former Sports Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius signed a memorandum of understanding that would lead to the construction of a swimming pool in Gozo. However, complications led to that memorandum being dropped.
Justyne Caruana, who was Gozo Minister from June 2017 to January 2020, also pushed for the construction pool when she came into office, but her efforts only resulted in some excavation work which left Gozitans with what they have today…
Another tender was issued in late 2019, but due to its ill-timing amidst Malta’s political crisis, it is unclear whether it will ever see the light of day.
“It is fairly easy to issue tenders commit to a project but a proper fiscal commitment to build the pool has yet to materialise,” Mercieca said.
The current tender for the construction of the New Gozo Aquatic Center has remained at the ‘evaluation’ stage for months now and every day that passes by raises the question as to whether this pool will ever come into existence.