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Melita win championship in a turbulent season

Melita FC – 1968-69 Division Three League winners

The late Sixties were a busy period for football in Malta.

The era was full of events and good football but unfortunately, it was tainted with violence and the sour smell of corruption.

Competitions followed each other with such frequency that one was left almost breathless. Visits by foreign teams were frequent.

In the 1968-69 season alone, Arsenal, Milan, Progressul, and Watford all visited the Island.

1968-69 in particular, was a good season and overall the public was served with a feast of football, especially by the foreign teams that visited the island.

The cases of violence however, exceeded all proportions and this was present in all divisions of the Maltese football league. It was therefore refreshing to see the amateur club of Melita FC doing so well in the hustle and bustle of the third division.

Melita played very good football that season. However, it was more their sportsmanship and fair play that stood out than their skills with the ball.

The amateurs always played to win but they did it squarely and fairly which is more than one could say of some of their opponents.

In 1968-69, the Third Division section honours went to Melita FC, Mosta Athletic, and Rabat FC.

It is interesting to note that the three section winners won their respective sections with the same number of points. Another coincidence was that of the 10 matches played each club won seven games, drew two and lost one.

Mosta started the promotion play-offs on a top note when they beat Melita by a goal scored by the league top scorer, Joe Gatt.

The match between Rabat and Melita ended in a 1-1 draw but the Magpies were lucky to score the equaliser just seconds before the end of the game.

Lady luck continued to smile on Rabat in the last game of the first round.

They beat Mosta 2-0, but the Blues enjoyed the bulk of the play and they deserved at least a point from this encounter.

The second-round meeting between Mosta and Melita was the best of the series. Melita won a thrilling game by the odd goal in five and then beat Rabat 2-1 to assure themselves of the championship.

The Mosta vs Rabat encounter was now transformed into a promotion decider.

KO competition

Rabat needed only a point from this game but Mosta rose to the occasion and won an exciting game 2-1.

The knockout competition that season was won by Birżebbuġa St Peter’s. The Saints disposed of Għaxaq and Siġġiewi in the earlier rounds and then beat Rabat 1-0 in the semi-finals.

Birżebbuġa’s opponents in the final were St Patrick’s of Żabbar. This game was played on Sunday May 11, 1969 under the scorching heat of a Maltese heat wave.

Things started badly for St Patrick’s when Barbara foolishly passed back to his goalkeeper leaving Ronnie Theobald free to steer the ball into the net.

Barbara was instantly substituted with Grima who, one must say, infused more confidence into his team.

Midway through the first half, Borda equalised for St Patrick’s.

The unusual hot weather however, sapped the players’ energy and the game degenerated into a midfield struggle. Somehow, the game dragged into extra-time.

However, neither team seemed able to score and a replay seemed imminent when two minutes from time Ronnie Theobald scored from a suspiciously offside position.

The referee looked at his linesman who pointed to the centre-spot.

Pandemonium broke loose as St Patrick’s players protested with the officials.

Goalkeeper Bezzina attacked the linesman and was given his marching orders.

A few seconds later, referee Balzan sounded the final whistle.

After the game fighting broke out on the terraces and the presentation was made amidst total confusion.

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