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Edwin Schembri

Edwin Schembri

The end of the war brought with it a surge of enthusiasm for football all over the island. New were sprouting everywhere and in an attempt to control a chaotic situation the MFA came up with the idea of having each district represented by only one team in the national league.

The rule forced teams from the same district to amalgamate to form one strong team representing them in the league. Although Paola and Tarxien are two different districts, Hibernians and Little Rainbows decided to amalgamate but unfortunately, the union did not last long because in 1949 the two clubs separated once again.

Hibs acquired several good players, including a shy, young minors’ player who was set to make a name for himself in the top sphere of Maltese football. He was Edwin Schembri.

Edwin Schembri was born in Cospicua on November 2, 1929.

He joined Little Rainbows in 1944 and stayed with the club up to 1946 when the amalgamation was completed. Schembri soon settled down with Hibs and before long he was featuring in the strong Hibs’ youth and reserve sides of that period.

On April 11, 1948, he made his league debut for the Paolities in the 1-1 draw against St George’s, During this early period in his career, he was selected for the MFA Youths squad for the 1948-49 International Youth Tournament in Sicily.

Edwin SchembriWith Hibs, Schembri played 41 league matches before transferring to Valletta in 1951. Hibs were loath to part with their talented youngster but the bad financial situation of the club forced them to part with some of their best players.

Hibs’ loss proved to be Valletta’s gain. An intelligent, consistent, reliable and utterly honest defender, Schembri soon developed into one of the best Maltese defenders of the post-war era.

In his first six seasons at Valletta, life was not so easy. In those days the Citizens had a very good team but it seems it was not good enough to win a major honour. The ‘Lilywhites’ were lurking near the top of the league table but the honours always seemed to elude them at the last hurdle.

In 1956-57, Schembri was made captain and under his leadership, the team finished runners-up in the league to Sliema Wanderers and reached the FA Trophy final only to lose 2-0 against Floriana FC.

Still, the team had too much potential in it to be denied for long. 1958-59, at last, brought success to Valletta. The ‘Lilywhites’ won the championship that had been eluding them for so long. For Schembri, however, the season was something of an anti-climax. Midway through the competition, he lost his place in the team and the captaincy.

In 1959-60, Valletta retained the championship and won the FA Trophy. This time Schembri’s consistency and reliability were two of the main ingredients behind their success. By now he was getting on in years and although his performances were still valid, some promising youngsters were waiting to grab their chance.

In 1962-63 Schembri decided to retire. He could not have chosen a better time. Valletta won the league title and Schembri was chosen at the Footballer of the Year for the season. It was a fitting tribute to an honest, reliable and down-to-earth clubman who never played for personal glory but for the benefit of his team.

Carmel Baldacchino