Eight teams, the largest number to date, took part in the 1917-18 League Championship. The participating teams were: Ħamrun Spartans, St George’s, Sliema Wanderers, Valletta United, Cottonera FC, Paola Rovers, Floriana FC and Floriana Liberty.
1917-18 saw the return to competitive football of Floriana FC after a lapse of several seasons.
All good things must come to an end. The great Floriana edition which dominated the game in Malta during the first four seasons of competitive football was by 1917-18 broken up.
The ‘Irish’ with most of their star players gone had a rather quiet season and at the end, they could only finish in fifth place.
Reigning champions St George’s were firm favourites to retain their title.
The Spartans, however, were not prepared to give up without a fight. The Saints started their commitments like a house on fire, beating Valletta United 1-0 and Cottonera 3-1. Then came the disputed game against Floriana.
The Greens won the game but the Saints were awarded the points because Floriana had used an inelligible player. The two points awarded to them by the Council left them with six points from three matches.
Ħamrun Spartans started more slowly.
They drew 0-0 against Sliema Wanderers and Floriana, but in their next game, they surprised St George’s with a dazzling display of football which produced a splendid 4-0 victory.
After this game, the Spartans continued on the winning trail. They beat Paola Rovers 3-2, Cottonera United 2-1 and Liberty FC 12-1 to finish their programme with 12 points.
St George’s recovered well from their heavy defeat against the Spartans and in their remaining matches they beat the Wanderers 2-1, Liberty 8-1, and Paola Rovers 3-0 to finish level on points with Ħamrun.
Therefore, for the second successive year a decider was necessary to select the winner.
History repeated itself. For the second year running, Ħamrun Spartans had to face a decider because of a negative decision from the Council’s table. This time however, the Spartans were not prepared to surrender the championship without a fight.
And fight they did! The decider was played at the Mile End on May 5, 1918 in front of thousands of fanatic supporters from both camps.
It is a pity that an authentic account of the match did not survive but we can imagine the atmosphere which must have reigned in a small ground like the Mile End.
It is certain from the result that the game was a hard-fought and exciting game. At the end Hamrun Spartans won 4-2 to win the championship.
This was the Spartans’ second championship in five seasons. They also finished runners-up twice which shows that the Spartans not only had a strong team but that they were very organised.
Spur of the moment
It was rare in those days when teams were many times brought together on the spur of the moment.
A splendid scene at the Mile End Sports Ground 1917-18.
Ħamrun were led by their hard-working president, Joseph Saliba. They also had players of the calibre of Gejtu Psaila, Il-Ħaċċa, whose name has since become a legend in Ħamrun. With his stature, Psaila could lead any team to the championship.
Psaila was a living legend. He was without any doubt the idol of the Spartans’ supporters. His presence alone in any game ensured a full house at the Mile End.
A prolific goalscorer Psaila was a household name not only in Ħamrun but in any corner of the island were football was played.
Apart from Ħamrun, Psaila played for the famous KOMRM team, the Marsa United, the Malta Police team and with Floriana FC with who he became the first professional player in the history of Maltese football.
Ħamrun, however, was always his first love and towards the end of his career, he returned to the club he always loved and which he supported to the end of his life.
Psaila had two sons who played football for Hamrun Spartans.
Gejtu and Romeo were as popular as their famous father at Ħamrun Spartans in the 1950’s.