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Sliema Wanderers break Floriana FC’s monopoly in 1953-54 season

An issue, which caused deep concern at the start of the 1953-54 season, was the disturbing rumours of corruption and bribery amongst players.

These rumours were rampant and they gained ground when a club official was arraigned before the courts and charged with attempting to bribe two of his clubs’ players.

A Valletta committee member was accused of offering two of his players a bribe to sell the game between Valletta FC and Birkirkara FC.

During the compilation of evidence, it was stated by witnesses that this committee member had told one of his players that he knew someone who would give him £15 if he did not give his best during the game.

In his testimony, the member said the accused had told him that Valletta stood no chance of winning the championship therefore, if he did not take the money then someone else would.

The accused also asked the player to put the proposal before one of his team-mates. The players decided to inform the committee of Valletta FC of what happened.

In his defence, the accused maintained that he had offered money to the players mentioned not to bribe them but to test their honesty. The court however did not accept his explanation and the accused was sentenced to pay a fine of £50 or face three months imprisonment.

The 1953-54 League Championship had two peculiarities, which made it different from those of the immediate past.

First was Sliema’s achievement in breaking Floriana’s monopoly on the championship.  The other was the seesaw form of practically all the other contestants.

Although the fight for the championship was restricted between Sliema and Floriana, Rabat were still in with a chance up to the last phase of the competition.

At the end, however, the Magpies dropped to fourth place on goal-average to Ħamrun.

Rabat had a fine crop of youngsters but the main reason for their success was the signing as player-coach of Scotsman Donald MacDonald.

Under his guidance, the club reached the final of the FA Trophy for the first time in its history. 

Ħamrun Spartans at times enjoyed the heights of success but slipped badly when least expected. Having started well, they lost against Melita and Rabat but then got back into the race with two fine victories over Sliema and Floriana.

Valletta too had their moments but overall, they went through a quiet season. The transfer of Salvinu Schembri to Sliema upset the team and after going down to Rabat 3-2, they lost all chances of winning the championship.

At the start of the season, Hibernians were in a sorry plight.   Always within reach of the honours, the Paolites never made it. 

Their supporters felt that they were backing a loser and they abandoned the club. Things got so bad that Hibs could not even afford the £5 caretaker fee to be able to use the Schreiber for training.

Things improved, however, and, if their star fullback Victor Portelli had not emigrated to America during the season, they might have challenged seriously for the championship.

Birkirkara were the biggest disappointment of the season. Great things were expected of them but they let everyone down. 

Newly promoted Melita never quite made the grade and were relegated.


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