Fans travel from all over to come to Quakes games – to take in the sights and sounds that the club’s new home, Avaya Stadium, has to offer. Many come from the Bay Area. Some come up from the valley. Some even make their way down from the state’s capital. But two fans in particular have made an especially unique journey to the Earthquakes’ venue, traveling more than 6,500 miles.
Lawrence Degiorgio and his son, Ryan, have come for a brief stay in the Bay Area from the island nation of Malta. Malta, located 50 miles south of Sicily in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, has a population of slightly more than 400,000 and is just 122 square miles. By comparison, the city of San Jose alone has roughly 1 million inhabitants and encompasses 180 square miles.
Despite its small stature, Malta’s passion for soccer exceeds its size. The country has four leagues in its system, although primarily amateur, headlined by the Maltese Premier League.
Degiorgio has soccer in his bloodlines, as his brother, Michael, played professionally in the Maltese Premier League, while representing the Maltese National Team for more than a decade.
Although he and his family reside on the opposite end of the globe, Degiorgio is no stranger to Earthquakes soccer. Way back in 1979, he attended his first Quakes game while visiting the Bay Area for a wedding.
“I remember it was at Spartan Stadium and I remember the name because the team I support back home is the Hamrun Spartans. They were wearing red and black tops. I don’t recall who the opponent was, but I think I still have the ticket.”
A lot has changed over the past 37 years for the Earthquakes and Degiorgio was finally able to come full circle to see what has become of San Jose’s soccer club. While taking in the picturesque views of Avaya Stadium from the press level, he described his thoughts with two words.
He has traveled around Europe, visiting many of the most storied and famous stadiums the sport has to offer. In addition to watching games at Old Trafford (Manchester United) and White Hart Lane (Tottenham Hotspur) in England, he and his son also took in a match in Spain.
“When we went to see Barcelona at Camp Nou, we saw the players, but they were very small,” explained Degiorgio, pointing to the fact that the super-sized stadiums don’t always have the best fan views.
He went on to talk about how he thought the size of Avaya Stadium was perfect for fan experience.
“The seating [is my favorite part] because every seat has a good view and you are so close to the pitch.” Ryan then chimed in, “You can more easily get into the game.”
Major League Soccer has continued to grow both domestically and internationally over the years and Ryan explained how soccer fans in Europe, like himself, view the league.
“There is a television station that shows most of the matches live, but most people don’t watch them live because they are at midnight, two in the morning. But they do show replays during the day and we watch them. In Malta, people know about American soccer because of the big players that used to play in Europe,” later naming players such as David Beckham, Andrea Pirlo, Thierry Henry and Steven Gerrard as examples.
Even when he returns to Europe, Degiorgio plans to keep an eye out for the Quakes and their place in the standings.
“We have relatives in the U.S., so we always want to know what’s going on. I will definitely continue to follow the Earthquakes and how they are doing in Major League Soccer.”