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Valletta FC win the first post-war championship in 1944-45

Valletta FC 1944-45 League champions: Joe Lofaro, Louis Portelli, Joe Bonnici, Ċensu Friggieri, Ġużi Demicoli, Leli Curmi; Joseph Spiteri, Joe Mallia, Leli Attard, Victor Bonello, Joe Buttigieg.

Today’s article takes us back to 1944. The war in Europe was still raging but with Italy out of the war, the conflict was over for the Maltese. However, many of the leading teams were still in hibernation and most of the pre-war football stars were still in uniform.

One positive thing, however, was the amalgamation of Valletta St Paul’s with Valletta Prestons to form the present club Valletta FC. It was the start of a glorious era for football in the capital.  

In mid-December 1944, the MFA was finally in a position to organise the first post-war championship.

The season, however, was already half gone and there was no time to hold a full-scale competition. Therefore, it was decided in a sitting of the Council held on Friday, September 8, 1944 that only four clubs would contest that season’s competition.

It was therefore decided to hold trial matches to determine the four contestants.

On January 24, 1945 the delegates of the six clubs contesting for one of the four places in the First Division attended a sitting of the Council when the fixtures for the trial were drawn. The draw resulted as follows: Valletta FC vs St George’s FC; Sliema Athletics vs Melita FC; Floriana Athletics vs Msida St Joseph’s.

No one knew exactly how the final choice would be made.

In the first of the trial matches, Valletta beat St George’s comfortably by three goals to nil. Melita turned up for their game against Sliema with their minors’ goalkeeper and were beaten 9-2 while Msida St Joseph’s surprised Floriana with a 2-0 victory.

Common sense dictates that as a result of these matches, Valletta, Sliema and Msida should have won a place outright in the league with Floriana, St George’s and Melita playing off to select the fourth candidate.

The MFA, however, gave Msida’s place to Floriana because, it was alleged that they had used G.B. Attard who was serving a period of suspension. How this could happen when the league had not even started beats the imagination.

More surprising was the fact that Melita were given the fourth place despite their poor show against Sliema. It seems that once again the Council had used double scales and measures.

Because of the lateness of the season, the league was played on a one-round basis.

In the opening match Floriana beat Melita 2-1 and then Valletta completely outplayed Sliema Athletics winning 3-1 with goals from Curmi, Friggieri and Bonnici.

The second round of matches was played on February 18.

In the first match Sliema and Floriana shared the spoils in a thrilling 1-1 draw. Sliema scored first, Enriquez centering perfectly for Tony Nicholl to shoot past Aquilina. Floriana made a number of dangerous attacks but the Blues’ defence covered well. Minutes before half-time, Tabone handled in the penalty area and Herbert equalized from the spot.

The second half was full of thrills and missed chances galore but neither side managed to break the deadlock.

Melita sprung the surprise of the season by beating Valletta 2-1 in the second match.

Inside-forward Vassallo won the day for the Amateurs with two well taken goals.

Valletta found themselves a goal down at half-time but they kept their heads and seemed capable of wiping out this deficit.

They were awarded two penalties but Ċensu Friggieri and Demicoli saw their kicks being brilliantly saved by Calleja.

Panic now began to creep in especially when Vassallo, much against the run of play made the score 2-0.

Friggieri made up for his penalty miss with a well-taken goal and, for the last 18 minutes, the Citizens made an all-out effort to equalise but luck remained with Melita to the end.

Floriana now needed only a point from their match against Valletta to win the championship.

Valletta however, had other ideas.

Floriana enjoyed the first exchanges but after absorbing the early pressure, the Citizens struck back and Buttigieg opened the score.

Floriana reacted immediately and won a penalty. The Greens’ supporters were jubilant, but Herbert accompanied by the boos and jeers of the City supporters, failed miserably from the spot.

A few minutes later Floriana were awarded another penalty. This time Effie Borg took the kick but his shot went straight to goalkeeper Spiteri.

Floriana lost heart and two snap second-half goals by Curmi and Lofaro made the score 3-0 for Valletta. 

To make matters worse for Floriana. Spiteri saved another penalty, this time off Bennetti.

Valletta were the new Malta champions.

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