Josie Urpani was a skilful, intelligent, prolific goal-scorer and above all a loyal and honest footballer.
Urpani was born in St Julians on October 12, 1936 and he started his career at a very tender age with Floriana Colts. Then, while still undergoing his studies at Stella Maris College he signed amateur forms for Mosta Athletic.
Most did not realise his potential and in 1952 he joined Valletta Minors.
Josie made his first-team debut for the Citizens on November 28, 1954, against Birkirkara. In that game, he showed potential way beyond his tender age. That season he only played seven times for the first team but with time he took over the role of schemer-in-chief.
At the time Valletta were building a team worthy of their traditions. The team was still being formed but in 1957 they reached the FA Trophy final. This was Josie’s first appearance in the final but unfortunately, Valletta were beaten 2-0 by the ‘old enemy’.
The disappointment, however, did not deter the development of the team which continued to develop into a formidable combination. With such fine players as Joe Cilia, Frankie Zammit, ‘Wanese’ Borg, Tommy Taylor, ‘Ginger’ Joe Zammit, Edwin Schembri, and of course Josie Urpani, the team was bound to go places.
In 1958-59 the Citizens finally won the League Championship. Urpani played in all the matches and scored 8 goals. A fine inside forward, he thrilled the Stadium crowds with his intelligent play and his knack for scoring vital goals. In the FA Trophy, he scored two of Valletta’s five goals against Marsa in the quarter-finals but sustained an injury that kept him out of the game for the rest of the season.
In 1959-60 Valletta retained the championship. Once again Urpani was one of the mainstays of that fine City team. Valletta went on to beat their old rivals Floriana 3-0 in the FA Trophy final. Josie however did not play in the final. He was injured during the quarter-final against Hibernians and had to watch his team’s celebrations from the terraces. In 1962-63 Urpani won his third championship medal capping a fine season with 8 goals.
The next season he scored 10 goals to finish in second place in the top-scorers chart one goal less than teammate ‘Wanese’ Borg. 1962-63 was a memorable season for the City stalwart. He led the team to a 1-0 victory over Sliema Wanderers in the FA Trophy final. It was the only time that he won the coveted FA Trophy medal and he celebrated the occasion by scoring the all-important goal.
What made Josie Urpani such an outstanding footballer was his superb ball control and his remarkable quickness of thought. He was an expert at ‘running off the ball’ and moving to the right position to receive the inevitable through pass. His passing was accurate and his ability to pinpoint a pass to an unmarked colleague produced many vital goals for his team.
In 1963-64 he scored ten league goals for Valletta but the next season he only managed four league appearances and although he was still a popular choice, his best days were over. In 1967-68 he wore the City jersey only five times and at the end of the season, he retired leaving a void that took the Citizens many years to fill successfully.