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Żurrieq cruise to promotion in season 1960-61

One of my earliest football recollections is the huge crowds that used to frequent the Schreiber Sports Ground in the Fifties and early Sixties.

Each and every weekend, thousands of eager spectators would fill every nook and corner of the old ground. I was brought up at Tal-Borg Street in Paola which is the street that connects the entrance of the ground to Paola Square.

All day long, every Saturday and Sunday, private buses would stop in front of the main entrance to unload players and supporters and to take back home the winners and the vanquished.

Many were the incidents which I witnessed. Some were trivial while others were serious. Despite everything, however, were the good old days of Maltese football, especially in the lower divisions.

The Third Division League in those days was a guarantee of good and exciting football.

One particular season, which stands out in my mind, was 1960-61. 

That season, the league was one of the most exciting for many years, with the battle for the honours kept raging up to the last kick of the competition.

The MFA introduced the double fixture and although in those days, the Third Division clubs did not collect any gate-money, this encouraged them to make greater efforts. The two sections were well balanced and there were many aspiring teams for winning promotion. 

Żurrieq won Section A with a certain conviction, while Senglea Athletics carried off Section B honours.

These two teams therefore, met in the promotion decider in front of packed terraces.  The two teams were more or less of the same calibre but Żurrieq’s slight superiority enabled them to win the championship with a 2-1 victory.

Żurrieq lost only one match, but many times, it had to be the fine form of their goalkeeper Mike Galea that saw them through the danger. 

I remember Galea from my days in RAF where he served in the RAF Police. He was a fine goalkeeper and he had a short spell in the First Division with Valletta FC.

After their somewhat shaky start, Żurrieq recovered and as the season progressed, they cruised steadily towards the title. They were followed all the way by Birżebbuġa St Peter’s who however, fell short by just one point at the last hurdle.

Birżebbuġa made up somewhat for this disappointment in the knockout competition.  They fought their way to the final by beating Gudja United 4-0 in the first round, Naxxar Lions 2-1 in the quarter-finals, and Msida St Joseph’s 1-0 in the semi-final. 

The Saints had a very good team that season. 

I remember their centre forward Ronnie Grech who finished as the top-scorer of the league. Others who come to mind were half-backs Agius and Bellizzi.

Sta Venera Lightnings was the other team to reach the cup final. 

In 1959-60, they finished at the bottom of the league table. The next season however, they reinforced the team with new signings.

These greatly improved the Saints’ performances in the new season. 

Sta Venera’s main achievement during the season was the elimination of champions Żurrieq in the semi-finals of the knockout competition. 

They won 2-0 to win the right to meet Birżebbuga in the final. 

At that stage, however, their luck ran out and they were soundly beaten by two goals to nil by the Seasiders.

1960-61 was an important event in the history of Birzebbuga St Peter’s.

The Saints are certainly not one of the most fashionable Maltese clubs.

Honours do not come easily to this southern club but, as they say, every dog has its day and during that season Birżebbuġa won one of their first major honours.

Championship Decider

Żurrieq vs Senglea Ath.             3-0

Relegation Decider

Gudja vs Qormi Youngsters     3-3

Gudja vs Qormi Youngsters     1-0

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