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Joseph 'Zabu' Spiteri... a classic goalkeeper

Commemorative photo of Valletta FC, league champions in 1944-45. Copyright: Benny Pace.

Commemorative photo of Valletta FC, league champions in 1944-45. Copyright: Benny Pace.

The death of Joseph Spiteri, aged 85, on July 26, 2006, brings back to all football followers memories of a good goalkeeper who won honours in the early years of the newly-constituted edition of Valletta FC in 1943.

Spiteri was a product of Valletta Prestons in the pre-World War II period. When St Paul's and Prestons had to merge for the official representation of the capital city, players from both teams caught the eye by winning the Malta Cup (1943), the Cassar Cup (1944) and two successive championships in 1944/45 and 1945/46.

Spiteri was the keeper whose brilliant displays led Valletta FC, the Army XI and the national team to success in the 40s. He was nicknamed 'Zabu' because Spiteri closely watched Szabo, the SK Pilzen goalkeeper, in their 1933/34 Christmas Tourney at the Stadium.

During my long friendship with Spiteri, we discussed topical subjects relative to Maltese football... the formation of the Prestons, the forced amalgamation of St Paul's and Prestons in 1943 under the official name of Valletta FC - the team that gained recognition by the MFA as the representative side of the capital city.

After four glorious seasons as Valletta's regular goalkeeper, Spiteri made a surprise move to Hibernians. After a season with the Paolites, he emigrated to the United Kingdom where he lived for a long period of time.

Farewell Zabu. Valletta owe you a lot for your sterling service.

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