1944 - THE MALTA CUP
In 1944, the Malta FA organised a cup competition but, instead of the FA Trophy, the winners were presented with the Malta Cup.
Was this a special one-off competition or was it part of the Maltese Cup series? Nobody seems to know for certain and I doubt if at the time the clubs themselves knew what they were playing for. I tend to favour the second option, if only for the choice of name for the competition.
In 1943 the war still raging in Europe but in Malta it was over. The MFA, therefore decide to reorganise the game from its roots.
1943-44 was a busy season for the association as far as administration was concerned. This left little time for competitions. Still, the council found time to organise four major competitions...the Cassar Cup, the New Year's Cup for Third Division teams, the Christmas Cup for Second Division teams and the Malta Cup for the First Division teams.
Football in Malta was in a sorry state. Most of the players were still in uniform and established clubs like Floriana and Sliema Wanderers were finding it very difficult to form a competitive team.
Things were the same for the other clubs except, perhaps, for Valletta.
Valletta St Paul's and Valletta Prestons amalgamated to form a powerful team, which was destined to challenge the hold which Sliema and Floriana had on Maltese football. So great was the plight of Floriana and Sliema in those days that they chose to take part under assumed names.
It is a known fact, that in those days the members of the Old Firm dominated the Malta FA. The Council never took any decision, which went against the interests of its favourites. And here lies the mystery.
It is my guess that rather than risking that Valletta would win the FA Trophy, the council kept it under lock and key and instead introduced a new cup.
As it turned out Valletta did win the competition and they were rewarded with one of the finest trophies in their collection.
Six teams took part in the competition: Valletta FC, Sliema Athletics, Msida St. Joseph's, Floriana Athletics, St. George's FC and Melita. It was a competition, which revived many old memories. It is true that Sliema and Floriana had altered their names, but when they met in the semi-finals, they did not fool anybody.
They were the same old rivals and the same old spirit of rivalry was there, as keen and vivid as always. In the end, Floriana won 4-2.
On Sunday, March 26, Valletta beat St. George's 2-1 in the second semi-final. It was therefore a 'derby' final with all its frills and trimmings. The Malta Cup final brought to mind the first ever Maltese Cup final, which was played at the old National Groun in 1910. The protagonists were the same, if one is ready to accept Valletta FC and Floriana Athletics as the descendants of Valletta United and Floriana FC.
Floriana started well, scoring a goal after only five minutes, but the Citizens were now a very different proposition. They opened a barriage on the Greens' fort, which ended with <Lofaro stabbing home the equaliser six minutes after the resumption.
Valletta did not let up. They increased the pressure and with only 16 minutes left for play, Borg scored a great winner.
Ablaze with enthusiasm, players, officials and supporters danced with joy and hugged each other as Staff Sergeant Coulden sounded the final whistle.
There were indescribable scenes of joy at Valletta when the victorious team arrived in the capital. The celebrations went on into the early hours of the morning. The Citizens had at last awakened from the slumber...now a bright future beckoned.
(Taken from: The 1944 Mysterious Malta Cup by Carmel Baldacchino courtesy of The Times of Malta)
Spiteri, Demicoli G, Portelli, Bonello, Attard, Borg Sulina, D. Lofaro, Heatley, Curmi, Mee, Borg A.
Pearson, Scicluna, Borg E, Friggieri V, Rogers, Borg G, Cassar, Friggieri P, Bond, Wyllie, Cauchi.
5' Wyllie, 50' Lofaro, 85' Borg
Valletta City brought off the surprise of the season at the Empire Stadium yestrday when they beat Floriana Athletic by 2 goals to 1 in the final of the Malta Cup.
This win of Valletta's ws no fluke. Their victory was well deserved on the day's play. The game attracted a crowd of about 12,000 and there were tumultnous scenes when Demicoli, Valletta's skipper, received the trophy from Lieut. governor (Mr. D. C. Campbell).
Athletic Form Favourites:
The Athletics, following their semi-final win over Sliema and recent display against the Army, had established themselves firm favourites for the Cup and a goal ahead at the end of five minutes play was a grand start for them. Valletta however, did not allow themselves to be shaken by this early setback. Instead they proceeded to give the Floriana goal some furious assaults. With Heathley, their new comer, quickly adapting himself to the club's requirements at inside right vice Austin and Mee, their 'guest' player a bundle of mischief and trickery in the other inside foward berth. Valletta had their fair share of attacking in the first half but were just unable to round off some really dangerous moves. they were still a goal at the interval but with a little more luck might just as easily have been a goal ahead.
The game was played throughout in the true traditions of Cup-tie football-fast, hard vigorous play-with neither side giving quarter or expecting it. Injuries stopped play on half-a-dozen occassions, but the most serious of these was a facial injury to Bond, Floriana's go-getter centre-forward at the end of 18 mins. play. Thereafter he retired to the right wing, but neither Cassar nor Friggieri P, in turn were able to take over the position with complete satisfaction and in the closing stages he was back to the centre.
Play had only been going a few minutes when the ball was found to be unsuitable and taking the fresh ball for a corner kick Cauchi placed it right in the goal mouth among a cluster of heads. A partial clearance found the ball at Wyllie's feet and he banged the ball home for the opening goal after 5 minutes, amid the wild delight of Floriana's supporters.
Mee Gets Busy
At the other end Mee neatly tapped the ball through for Curmi, but he was beaten in the race for it by Pearson. Heatley then tried a ground shot, but this was blocked by Rogers whose coolness and control in the centre was a feature of the game.
Mee initiated the next attack with an adroit pass down the left wing for Borg A. to cross to Curmi whose pass across the face of the goal was scraped away by Borg E.
Spiteri in Limelight
Guzi Demicoli - Malta CupSpiteri next won a round of applause by fisting out a free-kick taken by Borg G. and back to the other end in this ding-dong struggle Curmi worked a wonderful opening for Lofaro, for the winger to show a rare burst of speed and take the ball in before letting loose a ground drive which shot past the far post. A narrow escape this.
Continuing the pressure Mee set in a shot which rose over the bar inches only and sent away by Heatley. Lofaro hit a high dropping centre into the goal for Borg A. to come in and sent a header crashing against the bar.
Surviving these strong attacks Floriana swept down the field for Wylie to have a drive charged down and Friggieri P. to hit a cross shot just wide of the far post. Spiteri had to receive it attention at this stage and Bond was operating on the right wing and doing quite nicely.
There was another thrill for Valletta supporters when Lofaro went racing through again and appeared to be in the act of shooting when Borg E. managed to get a boot to the ball and save the situation.
Portelli and Demicoli were proving a stout partnership at full backs the former using his head repeatedly to good effect. The Floriana goal had yet another escape in the 42nd minute when Borg A. helped a free kick into the goal-mouth for Pearson to miskick in his attempted first time clearance only to see the ball roll wide of the post.
Six minutes after the resumption following clever combination between Heatley and Mee, Lofaro stabbed home an equalizer from close range. Pearson brought off a grand save when Curmi went down the middle to let loose a terrific drive. It was very much anyone's game at this stage, despite a falling off in Floriana's Standard and it looked like Valletta's lead would be of brief duration when Friggieri P. sent out to Bond for the latter to cross to Cassar. Instead of shooting Cassar allowed the ball to run on to Cauchi and Spieri brought off a good save. He could only parry the ball however and Cassar had a chance but shot wide. There was real danger too when Bond went in to meet a centre from Cauchi but Spiteri smoothered his effort.
Then with 16 minutes left for play came the winning goal from the foot of Borg A. It was a long shot from the winger which I thought Pearson had covered but which passed just under the bar. Excitement was intense as a free-kick was awarded against Spiteri for carrying but this was blocked and in the closing stages we saw Bond back at centre-foward. Play continued to swing back and forth with Valletta giving a more balanced display.
With only three minutes left came Floriana's last chance, as Portelli put behind for a corner. This was well taken by Cauchi and Friggieri P. sent the ball against the cross bar with a header.
Without in any way detracting from Valletta's performance I feel that the injury to Bond and consequent reshuffling, reduced the Athletic's effectiveness considerably.
(Courtesy of The Times of Malta)