Floriana, the winners of the first two editions of the Maltese championship opened the
1912-13 edition on October 13, 1912 with a 3-0 victory over Sliema Wanderers.
In those days, the league was played on a one-round basis and this left very little space for a team to recuperate from a defeat. Therefore, Sliema were more or less eliminated from the race at the first hurdle.
The second team to lose ground was St George’s who against all expectations lost 1-0 against ‘tiny’ Msida Rangers in the second match of the competition.
Making his debut for Msida that day was a young and raw goalkeeper with the name of Johnnie Perrin. The youngster proved himself to be an exceptionally quick, agile and safe goalkeeper.
The Saints opened a constant bombardment of his fort. At one time in the space of only 15 seconds, he repelled no less that seven shots at goal. Yet he could not be beaten.
During the game he must have fisted, kicked or punched away at least 40 shots. But, it was all to no avail.
Then, when the Saints’ players were completely worn out, Perrin’s brother James, who was playing on the left wing, escaped with the ball and placed it neatly past goalkeeper Salvu Gili for the only goal of the match.
Poor Salvu, really had nothing to do during the game except to pick the ball out of the net in bewilderment.
St George’s never recovered from this shock. In their next match against Floriana they meekly conceded three goals before abandoning the contest.
Before the game, excitement ran high in both camps. Everybody expected to see a great contest but as is many times the case in such situations, the end result was a great disappointment.
When at the start of the second half the Saints found themselves 3-0 down, their supporters lost their heads, broke ranks and attacked their rivals.
In the meantime, goalkeeper Alfred Flask, of St George’s, was jumping on his heels with his back to the Floriana supporters.
Missiles rained on to the pitch and one of them hit him squarely in the neck. Howling with pain, he jumped the fence and started throwing punches at his tormentors.
The match was abandoned and Floriana were awarded the points. For his unsporting behaviour Flask was suspended for one month by the MFA thus becoming the first-ever player to be banned in the history of Maltese football.
This left Ħamrun Spartans and Valletta United as Floriana’s main challengers for the title. Therefore, the game between the two title aspirants generated tremendous interest amongst both sets of supporters.
From weeks before, heavy bets were placed and when the great day arrived on November 3, 1912 the Mile End Ground was packed to capacity.
The match developed into a ‘do or die’ affair, setting the trend for future encounters between the two rivals. Tackling was tough and referee, Humphries of the Royal Navy, had to repeatedly sound his whistle.
The first half ended in a 0-0 draw. Then, midway through the second half, the Spartans were awarded a penalty, but the kick was badly taken and Bartolo saved easily.
This lapse cost the Spartans the match because a few minutes later Valletta were also awarded a penalty, which they converted to win 1-0.
After this victory, Valletta became Floriana’s main challengers for the championship.
One must remember that the Irish were not only unbeaten in the league, but they still had to suffer a single goal since the first league edition in 1909-10. Therefore, the game between the two neighbours was never more eagerly awaited.
There was not one empty space at the Mile End on February 2, 1913. The atmosphere was electric and one could smell trouble in the air. Floriana scored first but Valletta did not give up and early in the second half they scored a merited leveller.
One could not describe the scenes which followed this goal. For Valletta this goal was a victory in itself.
The game continued amid scenes of jubilation of the Valletta supporters, but these celebrations were cut short when Floriana scored again.
Valletta protested for offside, and when the referee stuck to his decision their players left the field and the match was abandoned.
Confusion, turbulent and uncontrollable ensured as the game came to an abrupt conclusion.
Valletta paid dearly for their action. They were suspended from the league and all their matches annulled and what was worse,with this victory their arch rivals were virtually crowned champions.
The Valletta players who took part in the match were suspended for the remainder of the season.
Goalkeeper Pawlu Bartolo was given a life ban and half-back John Borg and inside-right Fiteni were suspended up to the end of December 1913.
Valletta’s suspension meant that Ħamrun were only two points behind the leaders ensuring that the race would be contested up to the last kick of the ball. The Spartans applied the pressure on Floriana with a 9-1 victory over Senglea Shamrocks.
The Greens needed only to beat Melita-Vittoriosa to be crowned champions for the third time in succession. They made no mistake, beating the team from Vittoriosa by eight goals to nil.
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