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Ruġġieru Friggieri’s miss gives Floriana the championship

The League Championship of 1924-25 was characterised by the pique that existed at the time between Sliema and Floriana.

This rivalry added spice to that season’s competition. As luck would have it, if luck it was, when the fixture list was made up, the two teams were drawn to meet each other towards the end of the competition, making sure that interest would be maintained up till the very end.

Floriana and Ħamrun Spartans opened the league on January 16, 1924.

The Greens won 1-0 to bag the first two points of the season.

The decline in the Spartans’ standards was apparent.

In their next match, they were heavily beaten four goals to nil by Sliema Wanderers and when Sliema Rangers repeated the same dose the team’s spirit collapsed completely.

Valletta Rovers beat them 4-1 and their old enemies Valletta United rubbed salt into their wounds when they inflicted on them another humiliating 4-0 defeat.

This was the worst season for the Spartans since their foundation.

Sliema Wanderers played their first match against Valletta United on November 23, 1924.

Sliema immediately took control of the game and kept Valletta penned in their own penalty area. However, they failed to score, and the game ended 0-0.

This loss of a point was a setback for the Wanderers but they were not daunted.

In their next match, they beat Ħamrun 4-0 and continued with a 1-0 win over Valletta Rovers and a 2-0 victory over Vittoriosa Rovers.

Then, they went on to beat Sliema Rangers 6-0 and Msida Rovers 1-0.

On February 25, Floriana met Valletta United. This game was played in the spirit of a cup final.

Five minutes after the kick-off, the Greens’ inside-left Sant was fouled in the penalty area. Victor Bonello took the kick but the goalkeeper saved his weak shot.

A few minutes later, Valletta were reduced to ten men when Attard had to be carried off the field with a broken collarbone after a tackle by Ġuże` Alamango.

Floriana increased the pressure and gave Johnnie Perrin and his defence a considerable amount of work. Valletta’s rearguard, however, was up to the task and at half-time, the score was still goalless.

Floriana were all over Valletta in the second period.  However, the City’s defence continued to hold fast up to a few minutes from time when George West finally broke the deadlock.

Floriana could now breathe easier after surmounting this difficult obstacle.

However, they unexpectedly dropped a point against Sliema Rangers in a 1-1 draw.

This slip gave the Wanderers the chance to move up and share the top spot of the table with them.

Floriana, however, soon shrugged off their disappointment when on March 8 they beat Vittoriosa 4-0. The stage was now set for the big match against Sliema Wanderers that would decide the championship.

With the big game drawing near, great excitement gripped both sets of supporters. The police took all the necessary precautions and the ground was divided into two sections, the Sliema and Floriana sides.

These sides were traditional kept up to the end of the Empire Stadium in the 1980’s. Sliema took the side where later on, the enclosure was built and Floriana took the end of the ground over the dressing rooms.

On the day of the match, a huge crowd make its way by every available means of transport to the Stadium.

Each side of the ground was decorated with the blue and green of the respective clubs and placards were fixed to the walls of the terraces.

At 3.20pm sharp, referee RQMS Eaton of the Royal Artillery signalled for the start of the game. Sliema kicked off and after ten minutes, a shot by Busuttil went so near that the Sliema side roared ‘goal’! It was, however, a false alarm.

Floriana took over and Joe Nicholl was severely tested, but Sliema were soon back on the warpath.

The game went on in this fashion for half-an-hour when Sliema were awarded a penalty.

Sliema’s expert penalty-kicker, Ruġġieru Friggieri picked up the ball and placed it on the spot. A great hush fell on the ground. Friggieri took the kick but shot straight into the eager hands of ‘Gejta’ Azzopardi.

Drizzle rain

In the second period, both teams had their moments.

For much of this half, a drizzling rain fell on the ground that did not dampen the ardour of the players at all.

The tackles were tough especially from Guże Alamango who kept tormenting his direct opponent Dimech.

The latter lost his head and floored his tormentor. He was not given a second chance by the referee and was ordered off the field.

With ten men, Sliema were forced to defend, and with six minutes to go, Gejtu Psaila scored the only goal of the game that gave the Greens their sixth championship.

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