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Guzi Demicoli

Guzi Demicoli

Guzi Demicoli was one of the great all-rounders of Maltese sport. He was a formidable swimmer, a top-class water polo player and a very useful footballer. Representing Malta in Waterpolo and playing league football for Valletta FC were two of the many feats of this great sportsman.

At one time, Demicoli was also the holder of three Maltese swimming titles, and he turned out for the Army’s Athletics team in the shot put.

Demicoli was born only a few months before the First World War in 1914. At 16, he joined the RMA which was also his father’s old regiment, where his towering frame, even at that tender age, earned him a place as a goalkeeper in the regiment’s Waterpolo team.

Demicoli also flew the regiment’s flag in the Services Swimming Championships. His performances against top-class British swimmers soon shot him to the fore of local sport.

Success came to him with unremitting regularity. Proof of his prowess in the water was found in a packing case crammed with trophies, which he saved from the ruins of his home after it was bombed during the Second World War.

Demicoli was a prominent member of the RMA team that lifted the Command Aquatic Shield in 1933 and again in 1938. In civilian life, Demicoli was a member of the St Julian’s Aquatic Club.

In 1934, Sirene-Tritons WC of Tunis visited Malta. The Tunisians had a very strong swimming team. Therefore, the St Julian’s club organised a swimming meeting in their honour.

Although still 19 years old, Demicoli beat the visitors’ best swimmers, Aitchinnikoff and Licareff in the 100 yards to establish a new national record of 56.4 seconds.

Two years later, Demicoli was selected to play for the Maltese Waterpolo team in the Berlin Olympics. Malta was beaten 2-8 by Great Britain and 0-12 by world champions Hungary but Demicoli came out of these tough tests with flying colours.

In 1937, he won the 100 yards, 200 yards and 800 yards titles in the Neptunes Aquatic Sports Festival. His performances were of such high quality that the ASA decided to send him to Sydney to participate in the Empire Games.

It was thought at the time that with proper training and coaching, he would justify his place among the Empire’s best. The idea, however, fell through due to a lack of funds.

The following year, Demicoli won the 100 yards backstroke and the 100 yards, 400 yards and 800 freestyle at the St Julian’s club championship. Once again, the decision was made to send Demicoli to represent Malta in the European Swimming Championships, but this time he had to decline because he was serving on HMS Hood with the RMA.

Football career

During this trip, while the ship was berthed at Navarino in Greece, Demicoli played for the RMA party against the strong HMS Hood football team. Playing in the unusual centre-forward position, he scored all four goals by which the Maltese Regiment defeated the British sailors.

Demicoli was a very good football player. His size made him a formidable defender. He started with St Julian’s FC in the Third Division in 1935.

His other sporting activities, however, held him back from seeking a career in this sport. For the next eight years, he restricted himself to playing football only for his regiment. Then, in 1943, he was in the Valletta Prestons’ team that won the eighth Army Cup. He also figured for the RMA XI in their loss to the Navy in the Victory Cup.

1943-44 was his best season in football. He capped some first-class defensive performances by leading Valletta to memorable victories in the Malta Cup and the Cassar Cup. That season he also helped the Coast Guards RMA to a prestigious victory in the Command Senior League.

Guzi Demicoli will always be remembered as a towering full-back and versatile sportsman. A man who excelled in any sport in which he chose to participate.

Carmel Baldacchino