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709. Fifty years of football in Mqabba

Mqabba players celebrate their victory over Sliema Wanderers, their first and only win in the Premier League so far this season.

Mqabba players celebrate their victory over Sliema Wanderers, their first and only win in the Premier League so far this season.

December 2007 was an important month in the history of Mqabba FC because it marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the club.

It was in 1957 that the present club was founded but from the information I've gathered, also thanks to the sterling contribution of Mqabba FC PRO Willie Bugeja, the game in the village has very long roots indeed.

There is a tradition in Mqabba that football in the village started way back in 1915-16. Old timers from the locality used to say that some soldiers stationed in Mqabba during the First World War played the game on a stretch of land known as 'Fuq il-Mentna'.

Among the soldiers were a few local lads who, although they cannot be identified, were the pioneers of football in Mqabba.

After the war, the soldiers left the area and football in the village died a natural death. It was not before the end of another world war that the game in Mqabba experienced a revival.

Some time around 1944 another team was formed. It was, however, a modest team with very little ambitions except, perhaps, to play friendlies with Service teams and other amateur sides from neighbouring villages.

Unfortunately, we do not even know the name of this team. All we could ascertain is that they used to play on a deserted stretch of land which was later taken over by the RAF to build one of their runways.

Many of the players who formed part of the first team from Mqabba left the country for Australia. Therefore, when Mqabba Ramblers were formed, some time in 1950, they found it very difficult to recruit local talent but by the mid-1950s they were well established in local amateur circles.

The Ramblers were formed by Anthony Zammit, the club's first president, and his fellow committee members Carmelo Bugeja, Carmelo Psaila and Francis Saliba.

Two of the most prominent players of that era were Leonard Farrugia and Gerald Farrugia.

The club was based at 24, Triq San Bazilju. In 1955-56, they joined the MAFA league and with players of the calibre of full-back Suda, A. Fitzgerald, later of Sliema, Billy Dally and Eddie Bonnet, of Floriana, Joe Aquilina, of Sliema Wanderers, Armeni, of Hamrun Spartans, Wistin Mallia and Sultana, of Melita, and P. Muscat, of Hibs, they were counted among the best amateur teams around at the time.

MFA-MAFA dispute

In those days the Malta FA was at loggerheads with the MAFA and as a result of this dispute, the parent association started to organise its own amateur competitions. A number of new teams sprouted all over the island, specifically to take part in these competitions.

Among them were two teams from Mqabba, the Rovers and the Hajduks. The latter were formed by Gulio Farrugia. He was backed by Joseph Farrugia who proposed the name Hajduks for the club during a meeting held in June 1957.

A big rivalry was born between these two teams but it soon became obvious that in such a small community, they would only create problems.

A number of far-sighted people, led by Richard Spiteri, came forward and proposed a merger. This proposal was made during an extraordinary general meeting held in 108, Parish Street on February 12, 1961. The merger proposal was accepted and the two clubs amalgamated under the name of Mqabba Hajduks.

Mqabba Hajduks played their first competitive match on October 12, 1958 against Atlanta SC in the Amateur League. Four years later, they joined the Malta FA and played their first league game against San Gwann FC on October 14, 1962 in the Third Division.

Since then, the club made huge steps forward. As with all other clubs there were bad times and good times.

The positives, however, outweight the negatives like, for example that brilliant patch between 1982 and 1995 when Hajduks rose from the Third Division to the Premier Division.

In 2006-07 the club finished as runners-up in Division One and clinched promotion to the Premier Division.

Their stay in the top sphere of Maltese football so far has not been a bed of roses. However, the side, coached by old warhorse Joey Falzon, showed that the old fighting spirit which has been a trademark of this club since its birth 50 years ago, is still there.

The omens do not look good though at the moment and the likelihood is that Mqabba won't survive in the Premier League at the end of the season.

However, they will surely give the other contenders a tough fight to the finish.

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