The Fifties were a wonderful period in the history of Maltese football.
The standard of the game was very high and could be compared quite favourably with that of the immediate post-war period.
Every weekend come rain and come shine, huge crowds wended their way to the Stadium and the Schreiber grounds.
Those were the good old days when everything seemed to be fresh and rosy. Today’s story takes us back to 1953-54 when football at the old Schreiber Sports ground was at its zenith.
Birżebbuġa St Peter’s were admitted to the MFA in season 1946-47.
In those days, Birżebbuġa was still a tourist resort with most of the residents leaving the village at the end of summer to return to their town residence.
Yet, despite this annual defection, the club already had its own billiard, sailing and water-polo teams. Few districts in those days could boast of such a rich sporting tradition.
Of course, organising these sports was not easy and there was a time when the club had to abandon its waterpolo activities because it did not have a pitch where to train.
There was also a time when, because of a dispute between the owners of the boats and the club, the races were stopped. However, I remember that boat races were still being held in the Sixties.
When the local band club was founded in the Fifties, it had its headquarters at the football club and up to the late Sixties, the club was known as the St Peter’s Sports and Philharmonic Club.
However, as more and more people settled down permanently in Birżebbuġa, it became clear that a single committee could not effectively cope with the running of two clubs so, although the band remained in the same premises, the two societies were formally separated from each other.
Football was always the most popular sport in the village but Birżebbuġa St Peter’s life in the league was never easy.
Most of the times were bad but there were also some bright patches in the club’s history. To quote one example, during 1951-52 they were amongst the protagonists of the Third Division League.
In the end, they finished in third place and in the knock-out competition they beat the promoted club Żebbuġ Rangers 2-0 before losing 1-0 to the strong St George’s third string.
1952-53 was another good season for Birżebbuġa. They finished in the runner-up position of the league and in the cup competition, they reached the quarter-finals where they were beaten 1-0 by Valletta’s third team.
Season 1953-54 was one of the best in the early history of the club.
Birżebbuġa had a bunch of fine players in its ranks who took the club through an excellent season. Many old-timers still remember Bertu Izzo, Scannura, Bongailas, Coxhead and others.
That season, Birżebbuġa won Section A of the Third Division without losing a single point. Then, in the championship decider they beat Little Rainbows 1-0 with a goal by Scannura.
I still remember the huge crowd which filled every nook and corner of the Schreiber Sports Ground that Sunday morning.
In the knock-out competition Birżebbuġa beat Siġġiewi FC 4-0 in the first round but then lost to Żejtun Corinthians in the second round.
This competition was dominated by Ħamrun Spartans’ third team and St George’s Reserves who fought their way to the final.
On Sunday June 27, 1954, the Schreiber Sports Ground was full to capacity as the supporters of both districts converged onto the Paola venue for the final encounter.
Those who braved the burning sun of a June morning were treated to a feast of football. The game was definitely one of the best played that season at the Schreiber Sports Ground. Both teams gave their very best but at the end it was the Ħamrun youngsters who won the encounter by a single goal margin.
Birżebbuġa had to wait until 1960-61 before they won another honour.
That season, they won the Third Division Cup when they beat St Venera Lightnings 2-0 in the final.
Those were the grand old days of the Schreiber when thousands of spectators filled the old venue. The ground now stands forlorn and abandoned. It is a poor reminder of one of the greatest periods in the history of Maltese football.
Only yesterday, during my usual evening rambles, I wandered into the ground which now is a construction site for the new Paola health centre.
I confess that tears sprang in my eyes as I saw the state the old ground is in. It brought back many fond memories of my youth.