1906 – VALLETTA UNITED
Towards the end of 1903, some youths from Valletta formed Valletta United. The exact date of the foundation of this club is not known. We feel that it was nearer 1906 than 1901 because the first reference of it that we find in the records is the 31 March 1906 when the club beat the Drummers of the Royal West Kents 5-2.
The idea was to form a club representing Valletta on the lines of St George’s FC and Floriana FC, hence the name United. The club, however, had a humble start. Lack of finance forced the players to content themselves with anything which they could get for free.
Shorts were made from long trousers cut well below the knees, and shirts were dyed in the club’s colours which, according to tradition, were brown and yellow.
Valletta United were known as the ‘team of the square’ simply because their club was situated in St.George’s Square, which is just opposite the Grandmasters’ Palace, in fact Valletta United were actively representing the City people between 1904 and 1932
Obviously, they were always behind Sliema and Floriana, whilst one must consider that Sliema and Floriana always dominated Maltese football before the second war.
In fact Valletta United, amongst all the honours they obtained, they also won the Championship twice in 1914/15 and 1931/32. They were also runners up for two seasons 1925/26 and 1926/27 and then one of the United’s successes was that of winning the Cousis Shield, which we know as the Knock Out Competition, and the word Trophy is even more familiar – they have won this twice in 1914/15, in fact, they have done the double in that season and in 1920/21.
One must take into consideration that these honours won by Valletta United were all honours that did not allow Sliema nor Floriana to win them, even though they both dominated the local scene in those times; that is Valletta were the ones who started to break into this monopoly of the Sliema and Floriana Team.
Valletta United were very active in the Championship of the first division and have in fact played 97 games. During the period that Valletta played within the M.F.A., that is from 1909 to 1932, somehow, when Valletta United won the championship in 1931/32, in the following season when they were obviously ready to defend the title, Valletta United disappeared, and obviously, the title could not be won by them again, so the monopoly of Sliema and Floriana has recommenced.
Valletta United was not the only team that played in the highest Division of the M.F.A.; in fact in the 1925/26 and the 1926/27 seasons there were Valletta Rovers who played in the highest Division of the M.F.A., then in the season 1937/38 and 1938/39 there were the Valletta City.
1910 – MELITA CUP
The first match was played on 17 December 1910 but had to be abandoned when a fight broke out midway through the second half. Thanks to the victory obtained in the replay match, Valletta United managed to win a silver cup which today can still be found at the club in St. Lucia Street.
During that period the game faced many problems one of which was the lack of suitable ground. Luckily in November 1910 a new ground was opened at Pieta’ close to the Ta’ Braxia cemetery and was called the National Sporting Ground. The new ground had various disadvantages one of which was that the pitch sloped to one side thus creating a disadvantage to the team playing against such a slope. But unfortunately, beggars cannot be choosers. The first match played at the new ground was between the King’s Royal Rifles and Hamrun Spartans (1-0).
The National Ground quickly became the center of football activity. At every opportunity, local clubs started to turn up at the National Ground to challenge each other for a silver cup. One of these matches was between Valletta United and Melita Vittoriosa for a silver cup donated by the Ground owners. The first match was played on the 17 December 1910. The first half was played without any incidents, but as soon as the second half started, pandemonium broke loose. Micallef scored for Melita and the referee had to stop the match following a free-for-all between rival supporters and players. Play resumed after some time but as soon as Curmi equalized for Valletta, another fight broke out. This time the referee decided to abandon the match.
The match was replayed on 19 March 1911. The organizers wanted to ensure that the match would be completed therefore Mr Tarbox of the Royal Engineers was chosen to control the match. Mr Tarbox was a registered referee with the Football Association. Both teams lined up as follows:
Valletta United: P. Bartolo, S. Busutill, P. Mallia, G. Borg, G. Speranza, C. Fiteni, R. Caruana, R. Vassallo, F. Palmier, G. Teeling, J.J. Falzon
Melita Vittoriosa: (unknown goalkeeper), E. Depasquale, L. Mallia, C. Dingli, L. Micallef, A. Cachia, Rodo, Mifsud, G. Micallef, E. Caruana, Grima
Valletta United played down the slope in the first half. Each side attacked in turn and after twenty-five minutes United scored the first goal of the match. A cross by George Teeling landed in the net to give Valletta the lead. This goal was greeted with loud cheers from the Valletta supporters. Melita tried to get back immediately, but the first half ended with Valletta United still in the lead.
In the second half Melita, now playing down the slope continuously attacked the Valletta goal. They managed to win a penalty, but it was superbly saved by Pawlu Bartolo in the Valletta goal. Near the end of the match, they also had a goal disallowed for an offside infringement. Although Melita tried hard to score the equalizing goal, the score after the final whistle was still 1-0 for United. Thus the Valletta team won a popular victory and became the cup holders.
1915 – COUSIS SHIELD
In 1914-15, the Malta FA introduced a new cup competition equivalent to the present-day FA Trophy – the Cousis Shield.
The draw for the first round brought together newly-crowned league champions Valletta United and Msida Rangers while Sliema Wanderers were paired with Vittoriosa Rovers.
Both Valletta and Sliema had easy passages into the semi-finals. Valletta beat the Rangers 4-0 with goals from their exciting young forward Carmelo Cristiano. He scored a double with the other goals coming from ‘Floriana imports’ Jack Herbert and Salvu Samuel.
Cristiano was one of the great stars of the Mile End era. A classic inside forward, he could dribble and shoot with both feet.
The future looked bright for the youngster in 1914 but the gods deemed otherwise.
In the summer of 1922, football enthusiasts all over the island, especially those from Valletta, were shocked to learn of his untimely death at the tender age of 26. Maltese football had lost one of its brightest stars.
In the Cousis Shield, the Wanderers had an even easier time against Vittoriosa Rovers. The Blues won a game of a sort by five goals to nil. Powell and Harrison each scored a double, the other goal coming from Frankie Busuttil.
Hamrun Spartans and Cottonera FC were awarded a bye in the quarter-finals.
The semi-final between Valletta United and Hamrun Spartans was the highlight of the competition. It was a pity that the two rivals did not meet in the final. The game was played on April 3, 1915, in front of a packed Mile End Sports Ground.
The Spartans kicked off against the wind, but they were the first to attack. Valletta, however, were soon to reply and throughout the first half, they attacked the Spartans’ fort relentlessly.
Hamrun held on by the skin of their teeth until 10 minutes from half-time when Jack Holland burst through the last line of defence before passing the ball to Vella on the right wing. The latter took the ball to the by-line and centred perfectly into the danger zone. Holland met the ball, and from close range, he beat goalkeeper Borg to give Valletta a 1-0 lead.
During the second period, Valletta dropped back in their own half to defend their slender lead, allowing the Spartans to take the initiative.
Hamrun heaved and puffed, but the Whites held fast, and at the end, the Spartans had nothing to show for their efforts.
In the other semi-final, Sliema found it much easier than they did in the league to beat Cottonera United 4-0 for a place in the final.
The final was played on May 2, 1915. This was Sliema’s first-ever appearance in a cup final. Valletta, however, were finalists in 1910-11 when they were beaten by Floriana at the National Ground final.
There was a festive spirit at the Mile End as both sets of supporters settled down for a first-class tussle, and they were not disappointed. The game was balanced, and both teams had their moments but although the contest was tough and exciting at the end of the 90 minutes both goals were still intact.
Everyone expected to see the extra half-hour.
However, before the final, both teams had agreed that in the case of a draw no extra time would be played and that the game would be replayed the following Sunday.
This decision, of course, angered the crowd as they expected to have the money’s worth in full but at the same time it
helped to raise the expectations for the next match.
The replay, however, could have been avoided if Sliema did not waste a golden opportunity to win the game.
With less than 15 minutes left, they were awarded a penalty. Camilleri presented himself for the spot-kick, but to his horror and that of the Sliema supporters, Pawlu Bartolo flew across goal to save a shot which would have beaten any other goalkeeper.
The referee for the Cousis Shield final was Floriana’s long-standing secretary Alfred Victor Camilleri.
Camilleri was one of the very first Maltese to control football matches. Because of the pique which existed between the clubs, competitive matches were always controlled by British Servicemen.
It was inconceivable for a Maltese to be entrusted with this task. The fact that Camilleri was chosen to referee such an important game speaks volumes about his integrity.
Sliema paid heavily for the missed penalty. The replay was another close game, but Valletta won the Shield thanks to another penalty, scored by the superstar of that Valletta team Cristiano.
VALLETTA U. – P. Bartolo, J. Grech, Sghendo, Fiteni, Zammit, Grech, Falzon, Vella, Holland, Cristiano, Herbert.
SLIEMA W. – Bonnici, Granwell, Tonna, Camilleri, Tabone, Huggins, Xerri, Powell, Busuttil, Harrison, Aitken
(Taken from: First Cousis Shield Final by Carmel Baldacchino)