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Camilleri's elegant defending catches the eye

Anton Camilleri

Anton Camilleri

Anton Camilleri was born on April 17, 1947 in Floriana. He was educated at St Aloysius College. It was at college, in an atmosphere brimming with football traditions, that he kicked his first ball.

Camilleri also played regularly for the Floriana Catholic Action team in the U-16 league and when his studies permitted, he also turned out for Fsobians and Floriana Grasshoppers in amateur competitions.

His move to the Floriana minors was a natural one and his clever centre-half play soon made him a sure candidate for a place in the first team.

Camilleri made his First Division debut in 1966 in a key match against rivals Valletta. Floriana lost 1-0 but Camilleri passed his first senior test with flying colours. That season, he only played that one game in the league but towards the end of the campaign, he was included in the team that beat Hibernians 1-0 in the FA Trophy final.

The next season, Camilleri won the first of his four league championship medals. It was an achievement he repeated two years later in 1969-70. By now, he had developed into one of the best, if not the best, central defenders around.

Camilleri played his first game for Malta on January 4, 1970 at the Stadium in a 1-1 draw against Luxembourg. In all, he earned 17 full caps for the country, including the two classic encounters against England.

In 1971-72, Camilleri was one of the main protagonists in the Floriana team that beat Sliema Wanderers 3-1 in the FA Trophy final.

The Greens were assembling a fine young team in those days which, in the near future, was to give them a lot of satisfaction.

Camilleri was one of the pillars of that team but before the start of the 1972-73 season he left to the United Kingdom, leaving the Greens in a quandary.

Fortunately, for the Greens and Maltese football in general, Camilleri did not stay long in England and by the start of the 1973-74 season he was back for Floriana.

Season 1974-75 was a great one for the Greens. Their supremacy was so pronounced that they finished seven points ahead of Sliema in second place. Floriana only lost one game that year.

That was Camilleri's best season. I remember that period quite well. I was always impressed by his elegant play. Rather lanky and shy, Anton gave a false impression of being tame. But it was just an illusion.

There was certainly nothing soft about his tackling as can be vouched by all those who played against him. However, when in a tight situation, he tended to play himself out of trouble rather than boot the ball upfield as was the custom for defenders of his era.

Season 1976-77 was another memorable one for Camilleri and Floriana. Led by the shrewd Tony Formosa, the Greens walked away with the championship, losing only three points from 18 matches and becoming the first team since the league had been extended to 10 teams to win the competition unbeaten.

That season Camilleri won a third Sons of Malta Cup and a fourth Independence Cup medal to add to his impressive list of major honours.

However, in 1977-78 a series of injuries kept him away from the game for long stretches. That year, he only managed to play six league matches and at the end of the season he retired.

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