This week, I will be starting a new series, named ‘A Stroll down Memory Lane’. The idea behind this series is to recall the best moments of the Maltese Football League with the very first championship.
Of course, none of us remember those far off days but I’m sure that this article will make good reading.
In 1910, certain gentlemen of standing agreed to organise a football competition between Maltese clubs on the lines of the English FA Cup.
The editor of the Daily Malta Chronicle offered to donate a cup and sponsor the competition.
Invitations were printed in the newspaper and after a short while applications were received from Floriana FC, Senglea Shamrocks, Ħamrun St Joseph’s, Boys Empire League, Margerita FC, St George’s FC, Vittoriosa Melita, Sliema Wanderers, St Barbara FC and the University.
A committee, under the name of the Malta Football Association, was set up at the University with W. Parnis as secretary, Lt. Prewer RA as president and Mr. Lennard as treasurer.
Everything seemed set for the start of the knock-out competition but then one by one the teams started to drop out, until only Floriana, the Boys Empire League, the University, Sliema Wanderers were left together with a late addition to the list, St Joseph’s United, of Msida.
These defections forced the organising committee to change the competition from a knock-out into a league competition.
The matches were all played at the Lyceum Ground at Marsa. This was an open ground and therefore no admission could be charged.
More importantly, goalposts and nets were not provided, and every team had to provide its own. Holes were left in the ground for the poles and instead of a crossbar; a length of ribbon was stretched from one pole to the other. This was a source of many arguments and it caused the abandonment of the first game between Sliema Wanderers and Floriana.
Floriana were leading 1-0 when Richardson let go a hard shot, which the Floriana goalkeeper could only touch with the tip of his fingers.
The referee signalled for a goal, but the linesman provided by Floriana protested that the ball had gone over the ribbon. The referee consulted the Sliema linesman who was sure that the ball had gone under the tape.
The referee opted to take the word of the Floriana official, and he promptly changed his decision. This was too much for the Sliema players who there and then left the field and refused to continue. Later on, it was decided that the game would be replayed.
The league continued with Floriana beating the University by four goals to nil. Sliema played against the Boys Empire League on February 27 in a keenly-contested match, which ended in a 0-0 draw.
The Boys Empire League met St Joseph’s United in a broiling match, which ended in a 3-2
victory for the Msida team. Then the Boys Empire League trounced the University who were by far the weakest team in the league, 5-0. A few days later the students lost 3-0 to Sliema Wanderers.
On April 3, 1910, Floriana met the Boys Empire League who needed a victory to keep alive their slim hopes of winning the championship. The game seemed to be petering to a 0-0 draw when Jack Holland scored to give the Greens another two valuable points.
The fight was now restricted to Floriana, Sliema and St Joseph’s. All the teams were still unbeaten and had still to play against each other. Sliema and St Joseph’s United met on April 17, 1910 in front of one of the biggest crowds ever seen at Marsa.
Unfortunately, this interesting match was marred by many serious incidents. At half-time the score was 1-1 but shortly after the resumption, the Sliema centre-half scored and this triggered off a general free for all. The match was abandoned and Sliema were given the points.
The game between Floriana and St Joseph’s United was never played. Floriana were given a walkover. The match that decided the championship was played on April 24, 1910. This was the replay between Floriana and Sliema Wanderers. This time the game was decided in favour of Floriana by a goal scored by Salvu Samuel.
This match brought to an end the first-ever Maltese League competition, with Floriana being crowned as the first champions of Malta.
On the whole, the competition was a big success. League football had at last reached Malta and it was here to stay.