Maltese sport, in particular football, was on Wednesday mourning the death of former Sliema Wanderers president Robert Arrigo after a long illness at the age of 67.
Arrigo will be fondly remembered in the local football scene for his successful spell as president of Sliema Wanderers.
In fact, since he took the club presidency in 1996, Arrigo managed to turn the Wanderers into a major force in Maltese football as he led the team to win all major honours.
Initially, Arrigo had started his involvement in football administration when he was elected as president of Gżira United.
Then, in January 1996, as mayor of Sliema, he was encouraged to contest the election of president of Sliema Wanderers FC.
“When I took over as president of Sliema Wanderers FC I had a ten-year plan aimed at turning Sliema Wanderers into a major force in Maltese football and I believe that I managed to reach my objectives and now it’s time for me to move,” Arrigo had told a local newspaper in 2008 when he had announced his decision to step down as president of Sliema Wanderers FC.
Indeed during his spell as president, the Wanderers enjoyed great success.
In fact, they won the league championship four times, including for an impressive three years in a row between 2003 and 2005.
The Blues also won the FA Trophy twice, beating Birkirkara 4-1 in the 2000 final and then had the better of Marsaxlokk 2-0 in 2004. Added to that they lifted the Super Cup in 2000 when they beat Birkirkara 3-0.
The Wanderers also enjoyed some memorable nights in European football under Arrigo’s presidency.
In fact, the summer of 2003, Sliema Wanderers progressed to the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League when they knocked out Latvian side Skonto Riga on the away goals rule after the tie had ended in a 3-3 draw.
Sliema had beaten the Latvian side 2-0 at the National Stadium but in the return leg, they looked to be heading out of the competition when they were trailing 3-0. However, in the second minute of stoppage time, Joe Brincat scored a crucial away goal that put the Blues into the next round where they face Danish side FC Copenhagen.
Malta Football Association president Bjorn Vassallo said that Arrigo’s death was a huge loss for Maltese football.
“We are all deeply saddened by the news that Robert Arrigo has passed away,” Bjorn Vassallo, the president of the Malta FA said.
“This is another sad loss for the Maltese football family. Robert, was a true football man! Many people will never forget the emotions during those successful years when he was at the helm of Sliema Wanderers. Certainly, that glorious period at the club will be remembered forever, it is Robert Arrigo’s legacy.
“Above all Robert was a gentleman, an exemplary father, a beloved husband and a community giver. We send our love to the Arrigo family during this difficult time. May God grant him eternal rest.”
Gżira United paid tribute to their former president in a statement.
“We would like to express our condolences to our ex-president & Beneficiary Robert Arrigo family. Maltese football lost a great gentleman,” the club said in a statement.
Neptunes WPSC also issued a statement to pay tribute to Arrigo.
“We regret to announce the passing of Robert Arrigo, a long-time friend and member of the club,” the statement said.
“Mr. Arrigo will be remembered for his unwavering support of the club, as well as the time he served as club Vice-President for a number of years.
“Our sincere condolences to the Arrigo family.”
Ħamrun Spartans FC said in a statement that Arrigo was an inspiration for many people.
“Hamrun Spartans FC expresses its sorrow following the death of former Sliema Wanderers Football Club president Robert Arrigo,” the statement said.
“Mr Arrigo was successful in several fields, including football, and was an inspiration to many. Condolences to the family and friends of the family Arrigo in this difficult time.”
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