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Ex-national coach who also excelled at club level

Tony Formosa

Tony Formosa

Great players do not necessary make great coaches.

In fact, many times it is really quite the opposite. Great players do their stuff by instinct. It all comes naturally to them and when asked how they manage to perform a particular move, they are usually lost for words to describe how and why they do it.

Time and again I have seen this happen. Star players like Tony Nicholl, Salvinu Schembri and others have all tried their hands at coaching but without any notable success.

Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule. Other stalwarts of the game, like Joe Cilia, Edward Aquilina, Lolly Borg and Ray Farrugia have excelled on both sides of the fence as their record shows quite clearly.

On the other hand, although some playing experience is necessary for the job, many successful coaches did not have a particularly brilliant playing career behind them.

The subject of this week's feature is surely not noted for his great playing abilities but as a coach, strategist and football analyst he is second to none.

For many years, Tony Formosa has been one of the most successful coaches and most knowledgeable football tacticians on the Island.

Born in Victoria, Gozo, on June 2, 1937, Formosa received his education at the Lyceum first in Hamrun, then in Valletta and at St Michael's Training College on the Heights of Ta' Giorni from where he qualified as a teacher specialising in mathematics and physical education. He continued his studies at the famous Carnegie College of PE in Leeds where he obtained a diploma with distinction.

Football has always been Formosa's favourite sport. As a footballer, he played for Melita, Valletta and St Patrick but it was in coaching that he found his true vocation.

In 1962 he successfully followed a coaching course at Elland Road, Leeds and obtained the FA Preliminary Coaching certificate. That same year he followed yet another course at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne University where he became the first Maltese to receive the Full Badge which meant that he could coach the game of Association Football at all levels.

He attended several other international courses and seminars and established a close rapport with many top class coaches like Carlos Pereira, Mario Zagallo, Alf Ramsey, Don Revie, Helmut Schoen, Alan Wade, Bertie Mee, Brian Clough, Matt Busby, Jupp Derwall and others.

His first appointment as coach was with Zejtun Corinthians. Later on, he led Hamrun Spartans, Valletta, Floriana and Sliema Wanderers through some of the best periods of their history.

In 1967, he was given charge of the Malta Youths side, taking the team through to the UEFA Youths championships against Italy, England, East Germany and Czechoslovakia. Then, between 1971 and 1973, Formosa was national team coach, leading the team to victory over Libya (1-0) and a draw (1-1) against Algeria.

He proudly led the Malta team at the 'old' Wembley Stadium and was also manager/coach of the national team that played its first World Cup qualifier against Hungary in 1971.

First honour

His first significant achievement in top-class football came in 1973-74 when he led Valletta to the league championship. The Citizens had been in the wilderness for 11 long years and Formosa was also coach of the reserves, U-21 and U-18 teams, all of whom won their respective championship honours.

The following season Valletta surrendered the league crown to arch-rivals Floriana but Formosa guided the team to a memorable triple of FA Trophy, Independence Cup and Sons of Malta Cup Trophy.

In 1975-76, Formosa crossed the road to Floriana taking the team to an FA Trophy victory, when the Greens defeated the Whites 2-0.

This love-hate relationship between Formosa, Floriana and Valletta continued the following season when Formosa managed to turn the tables on Floriana, this time by propelling the Citizens to a memorable 1-0 victory in another FA Trophy final over the auld enemy. He, however, would have another chance to win the FA Trophy with Floriana in 1980-81 when the Greens beat Senglea Athletic 2-1 in the final.

With Floriana, Formosa had the distinction of coaching the famous club to 40 matches without defeat, a run that included two drawn encounters with Newcastle and Panathinaikos.

Between 1982 and 1986, Formosa coached Sliema Wanderers but I cannot say this was the best period of his career. The 80's really belonged to Hamrun Spartans and, to a certain extent, Rabat Ajax. It was also the period when the age-old dominance of Floriana and Sliema Wanderers in Maltese football was finally broken.

In 1986-87, Formosa rejoined Valletta but the next season, he retired from coaching after the UEFA Cup match against Juventus in Turin. He won the honour as best coach for four years running.

A founder member of the Football Coaches Association (MFCA), Formosa served for many years as president of the MFCA and during his tenure, he made the contacts for eight Maltese coaches to gain pre-season experience with top English clubs.

In 1987, he was appointed Head of Sports within the Ministry of Youth and Culture. He was instrumental in convincing the government to build useful facilities like the swimming pool at Tal-Qroqq, the synthetic surface at the Matthew Micallef St John Athletic Stadium and the shooting range at Bidnija, ahead of the country's hosting of the 1993 Games of the Small States of Europe. He founded Skolasport and managed to lure the Formula One Offshore Powerboats World Championships for three years running.

Formosa is also known for his commentaries during televised international football matches and as a producer of sport programmes on local radio stations.

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