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Gżira United’s first promotion to the top division

In the past, Gżira was the breeding ground of some of the best Maltese footballers of the post-war period.

Ronnie Cocks, Willie Vassallo, Toninu Camilleri, Hughie Caruana, Michael Woods and the Schembri brothers, Ronnie and Eric, are but a few of the host of football stars who wore the claret and blue of Gżira United.

Yet, despite this wealth of football talent, Gżira has rarely tasted the sweet champagne of victory.

One exception of course, was in 1973 when the club won the coveted FA Trophy for the first and only time in its history.

Overshadowed by their neighbours from Sliema, Gżira United were time and again forced to part with their best talent.

It was of course quite natural that talented youngsters from the Gżira-Sliema area would choose to further their career by joining the Wanderers.

Sliema certainly made good use of Gżira’s ability to introduce into the game some of the best Maltese talent of that era.

In the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, the Blues together with Floriana dominated Maltese football and in their ranks there were always players who started their career with Gżira United.

Gżira’s best-ever team was probably that of the 1963-66 period when the club won promotion to the First Division for the first time in its history.

1963-64 was a great season for the club. Gżira opened their league campaign with a sound 3-0 victory over Lija Athletic but in their next match, they lost 1-0 to fellow contenders Żejtun Corinthians.

Gżira shook off their disappointment and registered good victories over Marsa, Żurrieq, St Patrick’s and Little Rainbows before meeting Birkirkara in the last match of the first round.

The two league leaders met each other on January 5, 1964 at the old Empire Stadium.

A big crowd filled the terraces of the Stadium that Sunday morning to watch the clash between the two title
contenders.

It was, however, a disappointing match for the hundreds of Gżira supporters. Birkirkara dominated this game from start to finish and in the end, they ran out worthy winners by five goals to two.

It seemed that Gżira’s dreams of promotion would turn into a nightmare.

These fears seemed to be confirmed when at the start of the second round they lost once again to Żejtun Corinthians. However, they recovered splendidly and started to win one game after another to put pressure on Birkirkara.

The Stripes lost precious points in the 2-1 defeat against Little Rainbows and the 1-1 draw against Lija Athletic so that when the two league leaders met for the second time on Sunday, April 26, 1964 a draw was enough for the Maroons to win the championship.

It was a glorious morning for the loyal Gżira supporters who filled the terraces of the Stadium.

The game ended in a fair 1-1 draw which took the Maroons to the First Division for the first time in the club’s history.
Birkirkara had to contend themselves with the runners-up trophy.

Later on in the season, the two clubs met again in the semi-finals of the Second Division Cup.

This time, the Stripes beat the Maroons 1-0 to avenge themselves for the championship defeat. Birkirkara then went on to beat Marsa FC 2-0 in the final.

However, the 1963-64 season belonged to Gzira United. Many still remember the polished play of that fine crop of youngsters who wore the Gżira colours during that memorable season.

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