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Joe Ginger Zammit

Joe Zammit

Joe ZammitJoe Zammit (Ginger) had one of the shortest careers in the history of Maltese football. Yet, in only five seasons he achieved much more than other less-gifted footballers could carm in a lifetime. At 18, he had already won a league championship medal and he was already considered to be a good prospect for the full National XI.

Born in Lija on April 29, 1941, he started his career with Sliema Exters, founded in 1950. It was one of several junior teams formed in and around Sliema during that fabulous period in the history of the game.

Sliema Exters were a team from Gzira. They had their headquarters not far from Manoel Island Bridge but their founder, S. Pace was a keen supporter and he gave the team a Sliema name. The team had in its ranks a handful of promising youngsters. Centre-forward Alfred Pace, left-back Vincent Relton and half-back Vincent Calleja come readily to mind but the boy who really made the grade in senior soccer was Ginger Joe Zammit.

Then only 12, Zammit was no stranger to the Sliema supporters. They must have seen him many times trooping out of the dressing rooms with the team, immaculately dressed as the Wanderers` mascot.

At this age, Joe Zammit`s talent was already obvious and his amazing dribbling and strong shots were already being noted. His biggest ambition was that one day he would play for Sliema Wanderers.

Zammit certainly made the grade in first-class football but not with Sliema. He started with the Wanderers but he migrated to Valletta with whom he made his debut against Banik Ostrava on Christmas Day 1958. Joe scored the all-important goal in a 1-0 victory for the Citizens and from then on he retained his place in the team.

A touch-line hugging winger of the old style, Zammit soon became one of the best forwards in the game – at a time when football in Malta was blessed with some of the best forwards in the history of the game. His persistent good form earned him a place in the Malta Olympic XI squad and the full National XI for whom he played three times.

Joe ZammitIn 1958-59 and 1959-60, he won two consecutive championships with the Citizens. Then in 1960-61, the one-time Sliema mascot really made it good for Valletta. In 1959-60, he tied for the Footballer of the Year award with Louis Theobald of Hibernians and only a deciding vote gave the trophy to the Hibs` player. However, his brilliant form earned him the trophy the following season.

The sky seemed to be the limit for this fine player but then his career in Malta came suddenly to an end when he emigrated to Australia. During the close season, George Cross, the Maltese club in Melbourne invited Zammit to join the club and he accepted.

The City fans were stunned but they really could not do anything but curse their bad luck. However, memories of this fine player still linger on among the City faithful.

(Carmel Baldacchino)