On Tuesday morning, the news flashed around the island that popular sportsman and politician, Robert Arrigo had left this vale of tears.
Arrigo was born on December 4, 1954 in Sliema. As a boy, he followed the fortunes of his hometown club, Sliema Wanderers. The Fifties and Sixties were great years for the Blues and every youth of his age aspired to play for the club.
Robert did not play for the Wanderers but he was destined to play a big role in the administration of the club.
In those days, the Wanderers were led by that other great administrator, Dr George Bonello Dupuis. Therefore, when Robert decided to enter the football scene, he chose to take the post of president of nearby Gzira United.
However, when Dr. Bonello Dupuis decided to retire at the end of the 1995-96 season, Robert stepped in to take his place.
It was not easy to follow in the footsteps of Bonello Dupuis, who during his time as president of the club had become a living legend in Sliema.
However, Arrigo soon showed his abilities as an administrator and under his guidance, the Blues won the championship three times together with a host of other trophies.
Arrigo’s first success came in 1999-00. The Blues started that memorable season by winning the Lowenbrau Cup. The team finished in fourth place in the league but they ended the season on the crest of a wave when they won the FA Trophy thus equalling the tally of their old rivals Floriana of 18 victories.
Sliema eliminated the strong Valletta team in the semi-finals before meeting champions Birkirkara in the final.
The latter were firm favourites to win the final, but the Blues rose to the occasion and defeated the champions 4-1.
Three days later, Sliema confirmed their supremacy when once again they defeated the champions in the Super Cup final.
From then on, Arrigo never looked back and after finishing the 1999-00 and 2000-01 seasons as runners-up Sliema won the championship three times in succession between 2002 and 2005.
Apart from the championship, Arrigo added another FA Trophy success to his collection in 2003-04.
Outside football, Arrigo was elected as the first Mayor of Sliema in 1994 and was confirmed again in 1997, 2000, and 2003.
In 2003 he was elected for the first time to the House of Representatives, a position he kept up until his demise in 2022.
To the great loss of Sliema Wanderers, his ever-expanding role in politics, unfortunately, forced him to end his involvement in football in 2008.
One can safely say that since then the Blues’ fortunes have never been the same. Unfortunately, I did not know
Arrigo personally although I had the pleasure to meet him once at the Hibernians Stadium. We struck up a conversation about football in general and about the Maltese game in particular and I was impressed by his knowledge of the administrative side of the game.
We talked about the possibility of my writing the history of Sliema Wanderers but unfortunately, that opportunity has never materialised.
Robert passed away peacefully on October 18, leaving behind him many fond memories to thousands of Sliema Wanderers supporters and many others involved in politics. He was married to Marina and had two sons, Alan and Andrew.
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