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One-On-One: Louis Pace

Louis Pace Valletta FC

Your questions answered by….

Interview Joe Attard, Portraits Dino Demicoli, Archive photos by Louis Pace

You come from a family that was in the Catering business (Britannia Bar) during your playing days, did this make it difficult for you to play football or did the family nonetheless encourage you?

Yes I was always encouraged to play football especially with Valletta. Somehow, my family always managed to make the necessary arrangements so that I could go for training and play football when need be. Training in those days used to be at the ditch (Victoria Gate), more of a car park then a football training ground really!

Many people are of the opinion that the days when football used to be played at the Empire Stadium Gzira were the best ever. As a footballer, how would you describe the Empire Stadium? How did it feel to play on such a hard surface?
Clinton Farrugia Valletta

When football used to be played at the Empire Stadium, the popularity of the game was second to none. All the talk used to be about local football and nothing but football, especially in Valletta near the law courts, especially since there was no televised live English or Italian football in those days. Still, there was a big support for the Italian and English teams and everyone used to follow games on transistor radios. On Sunday those who supported the Italian teams used to bring their radios to the Stadium to tune in to Calcio minuto per minuto, and on Saturdays those who supported the English teams used to do likewise and tune in to the BBC for the latest results. One particular area of the stands that had a main interest in the results coming in over the radio was a section called tal- Lghaba! (betting). In those days going to the Empire Stadium was a day out for the family. I can remember the entertainment we had during the half-time break, (Il-Walker coming out from the Valletta side to twist iron bars), or watching our famous score board; a pole with a piece of string and football cut-outs that used to be raised everytime a goal was scored. But the atmosphere in those days was electric. Each team had its own section, Valletta Side, Floriana Side, Sliema Side, Hamrun Side; we also used to have our favorite dressing rooms. To play on such a surface was not difficult for us as we were all used to it, in fact, the problem I had was when I used to play away on grass , I used to be terrified!

fact file Louis Pace Valletta FCWhat do you see as the biggest difference in the Valletta team of your days and the present one? Of all the teams, which in your opinion was the best?
Jonathan Cassar Marsascala.

During my days football individuals used to be the main protagonists of the game, to-day the game is more tactical, faster, and technical. It’s a team game, as it should be. There was a great team that I used to follow eagerly, the one that featured players like Taylor, Urpani and Cilia, but to be honest that team that won all six cups was the best of all for me, they made a lot of people happy.

How would you compare the level of support, particularly of the Valletta supporters from the Empire Stadium to to-day at Ta Qali, and the celebrations following the winning of honors’?
Eugene Schembri Attard

The Valletta support is unique. At the Empire Stadium we used to fill our side week in week out, but you must give merit to the support of to-day as well, as it’s still one of the best support in Malta. How can we forget the league decider match vs Birkirkara? That day all attendance records were broken. The Maltese love their football, we need more matches of this type, Hibs vs Valletta , Birkirkara vs Valletta and Qormi vs Valletta the last two seasons were also crowd pullers. When it comes to celebrations no one can beat Valletta with all the best talent/ musicians on the Island coming from Valletta, it’s Carnival Part 2 when we win the Championship!

What was your weekly income with Valletta? Malta?
Mark Scerri Sta Venera

In those days when we won the Championship 1973/74, I used to get LM10 for a win and LM 5 for a drawn result. Regarding our personal football kits, we had to provide our football shoes, except for once, when I was given a voucher to collect a pair of football boots from Vella House. I can remember playing in football shoes called ‘tac-Carruta’ (cloth). It was the same when playing for Malta, except when we played against England, when they provided us with a tracksuit and were even given a performance bonus.

How did you feel about the way last season went for the Club? This Season?
Peter Borg Sta. Lucia

We must forget the past two seasons where we lost the League. Winning the prestigious Trophy (12th time) and the National League 100th Anniversary Cup last season was a special bonus for us, especially the Anniversary Cup which now has another 100 years in our trophy cabinet. This season, with Jesmond Zerafa as Coach, I think that we will go for every single competition. I don’t personally know Jesmond, but since he is a City boy I followed him over these past seasons when he used to Coach Qormi, were I personally felt that he did a very good job. I wish Jesmond all the best of luck for this season , even though from my past experience I know well enough that being a Valletta Coach is one of the hottest seats on the Island.

Pick the best 11 players to ever wear the City shirt. No subs. please
Joe Borg Fgura

To me, the best 11 are those who won the six cups (is-sitt tazzi). From no 1 to no 11.

Most Memorable Match? Most memorable moment? Worst Match ? Moment to forget?

My most memorable match was the 27/9/72 UEFA Cup return leg played to a packed Empire Stadium vs Inter of Italy. I was captain on the day, exchanging pennants with the then Inter captain Sandro Mazzola . We lost that match 0 -1 to a goal scored by Giuseppe Massa in the 24th minute. In the first leg at San Siro on 13/09/72, we had lost 6-1. On that day, Roberto Boninsegna scored four goals, one of which from a penalty, with the other two goals being scored by Giuseppe Massa and Gianfranco Bedin . Our only goal in the 34th minute was scored by Joe (Pesu) Borg. My Most memorable moment was when we won the Championship 1973/74, after two years battling for survival in the first division. Young players started arriving from Vanguards – Seychell, Maxi, Giglio, Ciantar – we were the team to beat. The Worst match was a league match against Floriana. We lost 3-0. A moment to forget was when our supporters turned on us after that same match. I can clearly remember going back to the Club , driven by il-Go way in his Volkswagen van, when supporters next to the Embassy Complex literally lifted the van with all of us still inside! That was the moment when I realized that for my dad`s sake, I had to stop playing. I stopped playing football at the age of 26/27. My last match was that against HJK Helsinki away in Finland. We lost that match 4-1. I remember that to go and play that match I had to pay LM 75 out of my own pocket as the club was in a dire financial position!

Louis Pace Valletta FC

Who was your toughest opponent? Player whom you wanted in your team?
Manuel Briffa St. Julians

In those days players like Louis Arpa (Floriana) and Ronnie Cocks (Sliema), were in a class of their own, but my toughest opponent was attacker Joe Cini (Sliema ). He was really very tough to mark. A player whom I would pick in my team would be goalkeeper Censu Borg Bonaci. He was a commanding figure in the box, continuously shouting out instructions, bsides he had guts, and was exceptional in taking crosses. Valletta FC always produced good goalkeepers, the likes of Alfred Debono and Frankie Grima, in fact they still produce good goalkeepers to this day.

Who were your heroes when growing up?
Joe Borg Ta Xbiex

I can remember two players who I really looked forward to watch playing and in training, Joe Cilia and Josie Urpani. They were my heroes. They inspired me to wear that white shirt with pride and passion.

How would you asses the improvement of the National Team from your days?
Peter Ellul Msida

Long gone are the days when we used to train at the Empire Stadium. I vividly remember when it used to get dark and we used to train near the enclosure or behind the goal posts as there was no floodlights, but only some lights on the enclosure roof stand. We used to train only one day a week. The footballers training facilities to-day have changed dramatically, with the MFA building the Football Complex at the Ta` Qali National Stadium. You can easily spot the difference from our days. When we used to go and play abroad, we rarely ever managed to venture into our opponents half! In fact, our man of the match always used to be our goalkeeper!

Louis Pace Valletta FC

Do you think that corruption was heavily present in Football in your days?
Anthony Attard Attard

I laugh off such statements by the man in the street, when I hear that this or that player was ‘bought’, or indeed that the team had six ‘bought’ (mixtrijin) players. Unfortunately Maltese football has this bad image, which is damaging to our game. I believe that in this world there is a fair amount of bribery and dodgy dealings going on, but not only in football but in sports in general and indeed in any sphere of life. You hear hearsay stories about professional players in snooker, cricket, football. The fact is that you don’t know that these things are happening until the people involved are caught, but I dismiss all this negative talk that our football is heavily corrupt, not in my day’s or nowadays.

In your days, traveling abroad with Valletta and Malta was not an easy task. Do you remember a particular incident you can share with VFC.Net?
I used to enjoy the overseas trips especially with Valletta as it used to be like a family outing. We were so close to each other in those days. Youngsters Joe Micallef and goalkeeper Montfort were our pranksters. An incident I will never forget was when I was flying with the Maltese team, seated next to Louis Arpa and Charles Dunda. Cowering behind us was Joe Cini, as, unlike his macho image on the pitch, he was terrified of flying. In front of us was an Italian businessman reading his newspaper, when all of a sudden I see this sausage flying past my head onto his newspaper. All hell broke loose as this Italian came up to me as he mistakenly thought I was to blame, whereas in fact Joe Cini was the culprit. On this same flight, Joe Cini and Censu Borg Bonaci locked Dunda in the toilet for the whole flight as he went for in for a cigarette. How can I forget Dunda’s episode when on a particular flight, he produced a tin of hairspray given to him by his wife. When I asked him what it was for, he said that his wife had given it to him so as to keep his hair intact during the flight in case it was windy! Those were the days.

Louis Pace Valletta FC