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Rabat Ajax’s rise to fame

Rabat FC were founded in 1938 and as far as we can ascertain, they played their first game on October 23, of that year against the Royal Engineers. Rabat lost that friendly match 0-1.

That same season, Rabat joined the Third Division League and they played their first game against Balzan Youths on December 26, 1938. Rabat celebrated their league debut with a 5-0 victory.

In season 1944-45, Rabat FC were in the Second Division.

Those were years of plenty and Rabat, like many other teams of that era, had in its ranks many fine players. The future of the club seemed secure and this was evident when they finished their commitments with the same number of points as Ħamrun Liberty at the top of the table.

However, in a play-off for promotion to the First Division, Rabat lost 0-1.

Years passed, and in 1949-50, there were high hopes that this time Rabat would win promotion.

Once again, however, this was not to be. In the important league match against Msida, Rabat were awarded a penalty when the score was 1-1.

Msida protested with the referee, but the official was adamant in his decision. Rather than accepting this, the Msida team walked off the field. The match was abandoned, and the MFA decided that both teams were to blame and that both should forfeit the points. This decision cost Rabat dearly.

As a result, Żabbar were promoted to the First Division. However, Rabat were not to be denied and promotion was finally won the following season.

Season 1950-51 was to be their best ever so far.

Coached by Tony Nicholl, Rabat dominated the Second Division League from start to finish with six victories and a draw. In the process, they scored 24 goals and conceded none.

It was a truly fine achievement and it stands out more when one considers that Vittoriosa Stars, who finished in second place, also finished the league unbeaten.

The match between the two leaders finished in a 0-0 draw and the only thing that separated the two teams at the end was the 2-2 draw that Vittoriosa suffered against Melita who finished in third place.

If it were not for this slip, then the Stars would have forced a decider.

Rabat had a fine team in those days, especially the defence that included goalkeeper John Mifsud, fullbacks Alfie Pearson and Pio Xerri, right-half Walter Powell, centre-half Roger Spiteri and left-half Paul Micallef.

The forward-line led by Paul Cini was by far the best in the Second Division.

Cini scored five of the 24 goals scored during that season.

Two clever inside forwards supported him, Raphael Lughermo on the right and Carmel Micallef on the left.

Charles Gauci was a good substitute for Lughermo while outside-right Charles Zahra sometimes changed places with his inside-right partner.

The last member of the team was Peter Micallef, a fast winger of the old style who could pinpoint his crosses for the others to head or shoot in.

This was Rabat’s first promotion to the top division. It was the first step that opened the way for the club’s hard struggle to establish itself amongst the top teams on the island.

There were many more difficulties for the Magpies before they finally reached the top of the Maltese game in the 1990’s.

Unfortunately, in the cup competition, Rabat fell in the first hurdle.

On March 25, 1951, they lost 2-3 to Valletta Reserves in a very entertaining match that drew a large crowd to the Stadium.

Surprisingly perhaps, the teams from Section A did not fare well in this competition. In fact, only Melita FC made it to the semi-finals where they lost 0-2 to Ħamrun Reserves.

The final was contested by the reserves of Valletta and Ħamrun on Sunday June 3, 1961.

The Stadium that morning was bursting in its seams as thousands of enthusiastic supporters converged onto the Gżira venue to watch a keen game that ended in a tight 1-0 victory to Valletta.

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