The 90s were glorious years for Valletta FC. Making history along the way by winning all the local football honours had to offer.
Valletta Champions 1989 – 1990
Valletta FC dominated the 1989-90 League Championship, winning their 13th title with ease. That total included the two league pendants won by Valletta United in the bygone days of the Mile End and the old Empire Sports Ground.
Valletta, with Joe Caruana Curran as president, were led by George Busuttil, one of the shrewdest coaches in Maltese football. They displayed a tactical type of play which, while not spectacular, gave them the edge over the other contenders.
Valletta were chased all the way by Sliema Wanderers and Hamrun Spartans who finished second and third respectively. The Citizens favoured a practical rather than a brilliant approach but the decisive manner in which they went about their job made them worthy champions.
Valletta served notice of their intentions right at the start of the season when they won the Euro Cup competition. They started their league campaign on a high, beating both Floriana and Sliema Wanderers 1-0 in their first two outings. From then on, they seemed determined not to drop any points. They kept on the winning trail until when they beat Hamrun Spartans 1-0 in the last match of the first round.
The second round was a carbon copy of the first. The Citizens started their commitments with another 1-0 victory over Floriana and when on December 23, 1989 they made a double over the Wanderers their way to the tape seemed clear of any obstacles.
A brilliant goal by the league’s top scorer Joe Zarb five minutes from time enabled Valletta to take a firm step towards the championship.
This victory was marred by crowd trouble. An incident between a small section of the Valletta supporters at the enclosure and some members of the SAG squad soured what would have certainly been a very pleasant afternoon at the National Stadium.
It all started when some Valletta supporters went down to the iron railings which separate the stands from the pitch to protest at some of the referee’s decisions. They were ordered back by the authorities and when they refused, some SAG members started to make use of their batons in an effort to push them back.
The crowd of around 30 to 40 supporters retreated but they were soon back onto the railings despite the intervention of members of the Valletta FC committee.
When the incidents did not stop, the fire-engine was seen approaching and it was soon in action against the hot-heads. Order was restored after about 20 minutes. During the second half a truce was struck and the game continued without further incidents.
The Valletta supporters’ misbehaviour unfortunately did not stop there.
Against Naxxar Lions they were once again in trouble. The scenes witnessed during half-time bordered on the unbelievable. So-called supporters from the Valletta end of the main stand took exception to some provocative gestures and dissent by the rival supporters.
Pandemonium broke loose as the fans from the Valletta side invaded the VIP area and eventually spilled over to attack the Naxxar supporters in their section. All this was done with almost contemptuous ease with police intervention proving completely ineffective. The water hose never looked effective and at one time even induced a hot-head to strip naked and enjoy a shower.
This time the MFA took immediate action and Valletta had two points deducted from their total.
The trouble continued in the last match of the programme.
With Valletta already champions, they lost against rivals Hamrun Spartans 2-1. This time the MFA took a firmer stand and Valletta were banned from taking part in the FA Trophy.
Source: times of malta
Valletta Champions 1991 – 1992
Valletta ………..2 St. Andrew’s ….0
Any far-fetched speculation that Valletta might prolong the recent spate of passive performances of certain teams against others in distress were totally quashed. The celebrating citizens were in no courteous mood against St Andrew’s yesterday and the result went according to book.
Besides wanting to wind up their championship celebrations in a fitting manner, Valletta were after equaling the record points’ tally of 33 previously held by Floriana. As a result, the fire and the fury from the Valletta players were never missing as they surged forward in their bid to open their account.
That the champions took a full 45 minutes and more – the game was strangely allowed to drag at least four minutes into injury time – to break the ice was as much due to the woodwork and some close shaves as to some stout but organized rearguard action from St. Andrew’s.
When Valletta finally scored that vital goal, it was an uphill route all the way for the Saints who battled on manly and honestly against heavy odds.
St. Andrew’s obviously did not want to risk putting the presumably half-fit Georgi Handel into the fray right from the start. They may have anticipated utilizing the Hungarian to better effect when he could be fitter against Zurrieq in the relegation play-off.
When Handel came on soon after the change of ends in an effort to bolster his team, Valletta almost immediately score their second goal and the Saints’ chances of salvaging the game were then completely nullified.
Efforts from Zerafa and Agius in the opening period hit the post and in between, the fast-improving Ray Briffa was denied by Sean Sullivan. Zarb had also hit high from an ideal position.
The goal arrived in extremis as Zarb headed an Agius cross against the bar off Sullivan’s punching save with Leo Refalo nodding in the rebound.
At last the Valletta fans, all clad in white and carrying flags and streamers for the occasion, could raise their chanting choruses to a higher pitch.
A ball that spun off a defender’s foot after almost an hour, ran close to the returning Nicki Saliba whose millimetric chip to the far post was met splendidly by the high rising Zarb and headed in.
The rest was only of academic interest. The Valletta fans were allowed orderly entry into the restricted area minutes before the end and the final whistle from referee Mr. Joe Cassar had barely gone when they spilled out onto the playing pitch to hug their heroes.
They had come to Ta` Qali on a large number of decorated trucks and cars and obviously could not wait for the moment to make their triumphal defile from Ta` Qali to Valletta.
The merry-making reached a climax in the city’s Republic Street where crowds were gathered to give the new champion’s a welcome and much deserved ovation.
The Coca Cola Premier League Cup, which had been presented to captain Kristian Laferla by the out going MFA president Dr. George Abela, in the presence of vice-president Dr. Joe Mifsud, and a representative of Coca Cola, sponsors of the Premier League was lofted high all along the route.
Yes, the Valletta players and supporters celebrated their 14th championship success in their own inimitable style.
Valletta: R. Cini, R. Briffa, C. Magri, K. Laferla, O. Populin, W. Mackay, G. Agius, N. Saliba, L. Refalo, J. Zarb, J. Zerafa.
St. Andrew’s: S. Sullivan, V. Vassallo, F. Pisani, N. Laferla, M. Camilleri, T. Edwards (M. Zammit), M. Naudi, B. Said, A. Eminyan (G. Handel), A. Busuttil, A Fenech.
Referee: Mr. J. Cassar
Scorers: L. Refalo (45th), J. Zarb (59th)
Source – Times of Malta
1996-97 A FANTASTIC SEASON
Winning five Cups in only one season was something that no other club had ever managed to win in the history of Maltese football. 1996-97 season will always be remembered in the history of Maltese football whereby Valletta FC dominated the local football scene.
Valletta FC started the season by winning the Lowenbrau Cup and the Super Five Tournament. They won the championship again after an absence of four seasons. In the FA Trophy final they met Hibernians. Even though Valletta FC were given a hard time by Hibernians during the final, Valletta FC were declared the favourites to win this honour for the third time, and they succeeded.
Valletta FC scored twice during the first half, but during the second half Brian Crawley reduced the gap for the Paolaities, and it seemed that Hibernians were making a comeback. A few minutes later Crawley received marching orders from the referee, and Valletta FC managed to control their opponents and won the FA Trophy for the third consecutive season.
During the Super Cup final, Valletta FC met Birkirkara (runners-up of the season). Valletta FC showed excellent performance, winning 5-2. In addition to this honour, Valletta FC had already won the other four that season, thus making history.
Back Row ( L to R ): J. Camilleri, J. Chetcuti, D. Debono, S. Sullivan, R. Cini, S. Mifsud, A. Bonnici, S. Giglio, A. Farrugia Middle row ( L to R ): A. Coleiro (Masseur), D. Colombo, D. Braaunovic, D. Doncic, G. Agius, J. Agius, I. Woods, A. Caruana ( Kit Manager ).
Sitting ( L to R ): J. Zarb, N. Saliba, J. Borg ( Team Manager) J. Caruana Curran ( President ), E. Aquilina ( Coach ), K. Laferla, I. Zammit
Front ( L to R ): V. Fiteni & L. Galea.
Valletta Champions 1997 – 1998
Le Jour De Gloire has again arrived Valletta’s way. Their Lion is roaring…. and rightly so. The Lilywhites, this time bouncing from behind as the league trek unfolded, managed to retain the title they won majestically last year when they carried off all honours.
They toppled the gallant Birkirkara to sweep to vet another championship crown in what turned out to be a titanic duel which developed over the best part of the league season, leading to the superb showdown we had yesterday.
This time Valletta struck gold in dramatic fashion. Just when the odds took a twist against them with the dismissal of Drasko Braunovic 27 minutes from time after a late tackle on Ivan Zammit, the whites summoned all their resilience to hit back with a penalty five minutes later.
Their supporters, who were muted into submissive silence as the Stripes struck a superbly engineering lightning equaliser on the stroke of half-time and went on to play confident football, suddenly rose from the ashes.
A bold substitution, which was nevertheless very rational given the circumstances of the game, had the swift Jeremy Agius coming on for the rather spent Veselji and it was this player who procured the all-important penalty for Valletta.
The referee judged that Jonathan Magri Overend’s charge from the side near the left byeline was illegal and pointed to the dreaded spot amid the Stripe’s players’ dissent. Zarb, whom together with midfield dynamo Stefan Giglio and Hubert Suda, had given the team a very valid contribution, stepped up to send the brave Musbah Shangeb the wrong way.
That penalty incident was tempered with a controversial decision when the official saw nothing wrong as Manojlovic apparently pushed his way past Eminyan seconds before.
At that point Valletta’s horizon looked distinctly brighter. All they had to do was to administer those final minutes cooly and in an ordinate way.
Birkirkara: M. Shangeb, D. Cauchi, J. Tellus, J. Brincat, J. Magri Overend, I. Zammit, M. Cutajar, A. Eminyan (S. Zahra), M. Galea (M. Calascione), C. Nwoko, A. Zahra.
Valletta: R. Cini, D. Braunovic, S. Manojlovic (J. Chetcuti), K. Laferla, J. Camilleri, S. Giglio, G. Agius, N. Saliba, H. Suda (D. Debono), J. Zarb, N. Veselji (J. Agius).
Referee: Mr. A. Micallef
Scorers: Giglio (30th), Zammit (45th), Zarb (68th pen.)
Apart from a couple of fast raids which almost had the Stripes caught on the wrong foot. Cini and his defenders were called to wipe away menacing balls as their frantic opponents made a desperate assault on goal.
At the end of the day one might be tempted to think that the match could have taken a vastly different course had Joe Brincat not missed from the penalty spot 20 minutes after Chucks Nwoko was brought down by Kris Laferla and Joe Camilleri. Credit here should go to Reggie Cini for his sense of intuition as he dived to his left to turn to corner Brincat’s kict in midfield.
That lapse by Brincat was too early in the match for any body to say it was a decisive incident. Definitely the game took a different texture, more so after Giglio had struck a brilliant goal from 20 metres with a shot on a loose ball which went searing into the corner of the net to Shangeb’s left.
But the Stripes, driving on Nwoko’s piston, were on level terms on the stroke of half-time. And that was another superb goal both in the way it was engineered and executed.
A quick throw-in on the left had Brincat transferring to the bleach-haired Nwoko who beat two defenders with breathtaking speed. The low cross came and in no time Ivan Zammit darted in from nowhere to flash the ball into the net.
Nwoko had been playing like a Trojan. He went for every ball whether it was high or low giving the impression that he could puncture a brick wall. Birkirkara’s plan of playing tight in midfield and then pounce on the break was looking good, despite the very quiet day Michael Galea was having.
Before their equaliser they had even struck the bar through Antoine Zahra on a short free-kick. The Valletta rearguard was looking porous against the long balls down the middle.
The tempo went down after the change of ends, with Agius and Veselji unable to release themselves as freely as they would have liked off the respective shackles of Andy Eminyan and Denis Cauchi. Shangeb was called to do routine work.
Then came the Braunovic incident and with that the change of fortunes as first Suda was deemed to take a dive inside the area and then the penalty on J. Agius which gave Valletta victory.
One could not but spare a thought for plucky Birkirkara for the effort they put in. Indeed the honours could have gone to them.
As it turned out, Valletta who suffered another setback when Giglio was sent off, could celebrate their triumph in their own inimitable way.
Source – Times of Malta
Valletta Champions 1998 – 1999
Valletta’s jackpot three times in a row
Half-way through this year’s league campaign there was little to suggest that Valletta would have to wait till the very end to wrap up the championship title.
The race between them and Birkirkara looked likely to be resolved in favour of the City team after they had opened what many thought to be a re-assuring eight point buffer.
However, two more defeats at the hands of the yellow-reds, compounded by a ghastly injury saga, seemed to jeopardise their chances of winning the coveted title.
With three matches to go, Valletta’s lead was reduced to a mere two points and Birkirkara’s hopes of upstaging their rivals at the finishing line rose to the skies.
The pundits were gleefully re-setting the whole scenario, most of them contending that the Stripes would, after all, leave the injury-ravaged lion of Valletta licking its wounds and crusing its ill-fate.
But the indomitable qualities of the City players surfaced when it mattered most. True, thier grear battles against the Stripes had been lost and teams of a lesser ilk would have probably given up hope of fighting the war to the end.
It is to the credit of Krassimir Manolov’s troops that they kept their weapons well-sharpened even if a good chunk of the ‘reserve army’ had to be called in to duty.
The likes of captain Kris Laferla and late in the day Pavel Mraz, Joe Zarb and Gilbert Agius could not be utilised. Darren Debono, Jeffrey Chetcuti and Alexandre Ivanov had also been momentarily downed by injuries.
But their replacements carried the team’s flag with impressive zest and skill. Nenad Veselji, Mark Galea, Karl bonnici, Rennie Forace more than filled the gaps adequately. To the extent that they became an integral part of Valletta’s machine, which had Nicky Saliba, Stefan Giglio, Joe Camilleri, Drasko Braunovic and Reggie Cini the solid platform of Manolov’s battlers.
Valletta: R. Cini, D. Braunovic, J. Chetcuti, S. Giglio, D. Debono, J. Camilleri (K. Laferla), N. Veselji, N. Saliba, K. Bonnici (G. Agius), A. Ivanov, M. Galea (J. Zarb).
Naxxar L: R. Debono, J. Galea (V. Bellia), S. Gambin (C. Oretan), S. Radak, M. Woods, M. Degiorgio, P. Sixsmith, M. Marlow, D. Okonkwo, O. Anonam, I. Stefanovic.
Referee: Mr. A. Micallef
Scorers: Giglio 2, Galea 9
The mental resilience was put to the test when the stricken Lilywhites faced Pieta Hotspurs and Sliema Wanderers, two matches which had the team staging a magnificent rally to turn the tables on their opponents.
Birkirkara, whose unbeaten run was unequalled, had to give up their ghost. The other Lions of Naxxar were not expected to ruin the Citizens’ festive evening which was to mark their 17th championship title.
Valletta’s supporters converged on Ta’ Qali Stadium in big numbers. The red and white flags and banners were conspicuous with the choral backing adding to the spectacle of a pleasant spring evening.
The chanting of ‘We are the champions’ were already ringing around the arena as Valletta struck twice within the opening nine minutes. Giglio hit past Reuben Debono on a rebound against the bar, while Galea headed a second. Both goals came from free-kicks by Bonnici.
The contest if there were any question marks about, was as good as over. More so, after Naxxar were reduced to ten men with the expulsion of Orosco Anonam after a wild late tackle on Drasko Braunovic in the 15th minute.
In between Valletta’s first two goals, Cini was prominent with two excellent saves which must have galvanised his team in no small measures.
The rhythmic chanting from the massive Lilywhites section prevailed. Their favourites’ task was accomplished. The ball rolled along the lush surface with the champions impetus and confidence leaving a lasting mark on the game.
The second period continued on the same pattern. Naxxar were forced on the receiving end despite having brought on Chris Oretan as a striker in lieu of Sandro Gambin.
Victor Bellia’s introduction on the hour to the exclusion of another defender, Jason Galea could not impair Valletta’s dominance. The motivation and total commitment of Nicky Saliba and his troops were constantly backed from the terraces.
Debono pulled off a great save on Veselji and repeated his feat seconds later on Joe Camilleri. In the meantime the chorus kept growing to a crescendo. Valletta’s vessel was sailing imperiously into port.
Their chief goal-grabber, Gilbert Agius, was sent in for the last minutes to taste the glory of the evening. Kris Laferla and Joe Zarb quite surprisingly, followed suit.
The Lilywhites success only needed to be rubber-stamped by Alfred Micallef’s final whistle. It further confirmed that the team is by far the most accomplished side of the post-war era.
The colourful ritual was completed with the presentation of the champioship cup to the Valletta captain Nicky Saliba by MFA president Dr Joe Mifsud.
The revelry- Valletta style – was to continue later in the evening.
Source – Times of Malta
Rothmans FA Trophy 1999
There was an ideal build-up to the match. The estimated crowd of about 11,000 divide into tow distinct factions, provided the right pre-contest atmosphere with flags and banners being very conspicuous amid the chanting intended to provide encouragement for the primadonnas.
The momentary lull before the teams entered the field of play contrasted sharply with the massive ovation accompanying the players as they made their way onto the pitch. The flares and the firecrackers added to the splendid setting of the evening.
Huber Suda for the Stripes and Gilbert Agius for the Lilywhites were put into the fray from the outset with the teams trying to do the probing as set on the drawing board.
The 4-3-3 tactical formation on both sides with adjunct forwards moving up in support of the main strikers gave the impression that enterprise would be high on the teams agenda.
However, there was little or nothing that enthused the crowd in the initial stages of the game and eventually throughout the proceedings.
A couple of tentative shots from the City players preceded the first action of note. This came from Velibor Matanovic whose well-directed effort from 30-metres had Reggie Cini diving full length to turn to corner.
Stefan Giglio soon replied at the other end with a shot that soared over the target. By and large though, the exciting fare was missing despite the commitment.
A flag-kick by Karl Bonnici brought a stir as the ball whizzed across the face of goal with a City forward slicing a header well past the far post.
Nine minutes from the interval Valletta again went near. Agius served Nenad Veselji on the left. The forceful shot brought the very best of Robert Savic, who turned to corner.
Suda hit out after good work by Joe Brincat and Matanovic. Still both sets of defenders seemed to have an edge on the respective attacking lines.
In the meantime, Andy Eminyan had to limp off giving up his place to Simon Sammut. The absence of the suspended Jeffrey Chetcuti and Alexandre Ivanov for Valletta and that of Zoran Antic, also ruled out due to suspension, was felt by both sides.
The scheming of Antoine Zahra for the Yellow reds and Joe Zarb for Valletta (both injured) was also evident by its absence. Kris Laferla like Zahra was on the bench.
The Citizens went mighty close to taking the lead soon after the restart. A well-placed free-kick by Agius had Savic well-beaten, but the bar came to Birkirkara’s rescue.
The Stripes were dependent on swift breaks and once Michael Galea, receiving a beautiful diagonal ball from Michael Cutajar, cracked past the upright.
Giglio escaped with minimum punishment as he was shown a yellow card after a late tackle on Cutajar. Play remained balanced but generally lacking drama. Cini fisted off a Suda free-kick while at the other end Justin Tellus’s tackle sparked off claims for a penalty as Veselji ended on the turf. The referee, well on the spot, saw nothing wrong.
Cutajar was unable to keep up the darting runs following the knock he received. He had to retire and was replaced by Ivan Zammit in the 68th minute.
The equilibrium prevailed as the teams became more elongated. The real openings were never on, though. The duels between Tellus and Agius at the one end and Darren Debono and Chucks Nwoko at the other were quite interesting.
A timely tackle by Tellus on Agius, nullified a possible chance for Valletta.
There was relative silence all around as excitement never lifted off. Normal time ran out giving way to the 30-minute extension.
A tackle by Nicky Saliba on Galea inside the area sparked off some protest from the Stripes forward. Again the referee waved play on. A fine move from Valletta had Agius testing Savic.
Birkirkara’s edge in possession at this point was hampered by a visibly out of tune Joe Brincat. Sammut by contrast, was doing his part well, as was Matanovic.
For Valletta Debono and Karl Bonnici were the pick. It was the former Sliema player who paved the way for valletta’s wining goal. He advanced and his pass ricocheted towards Mark galea whose shot was parried by Savic, only for Veselji to hit the rebound.
The Valletta fans suddenly erupted. There were some skirmishes on the curve and far stands. The Stripes fans went dumb. A last ditch header by Tellus brought off a brilliant diving save from Cini. Tempers became frayed as Savic and Debono came to blows. They were sent off for their pains.
The end came with Valletta, again triumphant against a Birkirkara clan hit by the now proverbial jinx of always failing at the last hurdle when it comes to winning major prizes in the local game.
At the end Mr Lino Abela Scolaro, Marketing Manager of Central Cigarettes Co. Ltd presented the trophy to Nicky Saliba, the Valletta captain.
Valletta FC: 1 Reggie Cini, 2 Drasko Braunovic, 3 Rennie Forace, 4 Stefan Giglio, 5 Darren Debono, 6 Joe Camilleri (Dino Trasokopoulos 118’), 7 Gilbert Agius, 8 Nicky Saliba, 9 Karl Bonnici, 10 Nenad Veselji (Antoine Sacco 120’), 11 Mark Galea.
Manager: Krassimir Manolov
Birkirkara FC: 1 Robert Savic, 2 Justin Tellus, 3 Valibor Matanovic, 4 Andy Eminyan (Simon Sammut 36’), 5 Jonathan Magri Overend, 6 Hubert Suda, 7 Michael Cutajar (Ivan Zammit 67’), 8 Joe Brincat, 9 Michael Galea (Matthew Calascione 109’), 10 Chucks Nwoko, 11 Graham Bencini.
Manager: Vlado Pejovic
Yellow Cards: Stefan Giglio (V), Karl Bonnici (V), Velibor Matanovic (B) and Chucks Nwoko (B).
Red Cards: Darren Debono (V) 120’ and Robert Savic (B) 120’
Referee: Lorry Sammut
Source – Times of Malta