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Schembri - reliable defender

Edwin Schembri was captain at Valletta FC before quitting the game in 1963 when he was named Footballer of the Year.

Edwin Schembri was captain at Valletta FC before quitting the game in 1963 when he was named Footballer of the Year.

Last Sunday, the news spread around the Tarxien-Paola district of the death of Edwin Schembri, aged 80, severing another link between the present and post-war period of Maltese football.

The end of the war brought with it a surge of enthusiasm for football all over the islands. New clubs were sprouting everywhere and the MFA, in an attempt to control a chaotic situation, came up with the idea of 'District Representation'.

The idea was that in future each district would be represented with only one team in the National League.

This rule forced teams from the same area to amalgamate and form one strong team.

Although Paola and Tarxien are two different localities, Hibernians and Little Rainbows decided to amalgamate, but, unfortunately, the union did not last long because in 1949, the two clubs went separate ways.

Only Hibernians gained from that initiative. They acquired a number of valid players including a shy, young player, who in the future was to make a name for himself - Edwin Schembri.

Schembri was born in Cospicua on November 2, 1929. He joined Little Rainbows in 1944 and stayed with the club up to 1946 when the amalgamation was completed.

Schembri soon settled down with Hibs and on April 11, 1948 made his league debut for the Paolites in a 1-1 draw with St George's.

With Hibs, he played 41 matches before he was transfered to Valletta in 1951. Hibs were unwilling to part with their talented youngster but the bad financial situation of the club forced them to sell their best players.

Hibs' loss proved to be Valletta's gain. A reliable and utterly honest defender, Schembri soon developed into one of the best Maltese players of his era.

At first, life at Valletta was not so easy. In those days, the Citizens had a formidable team but, it seemed, that it was not good enough to win a major honour.

The Lilywhites were lurking there near the top of the league table but the honours always seemed to elude them at the last hurdle.

In 1956-57, Schembri was made captain and under his leadership the team finished runners-up to Sliema Wanderers and reached the FA Trophy final only to lose 2-0 to arch rivals, Floriana.

Still, the team had too much potential in it to be denied for long.

Season 1958-59, at last, brought success to Valletta. They won the championship which had been eluding them for so long. For Schembri, however, the season was something of an anti-climax. Midway through the competition he lost his place in the team and the captaincy.

In 1959-60, Valletta retained the championship and won the FA Trophy. This time Schembri's consistency and reliability was one of the main ingredients behind their success. By now he was getting on in years and although his performances were still valid there were some promising youngsters waiting to grab their chance.

In 1962-63 Schembri decided to retire. He could not have chosen a better time to quit. Valletta won the league title and Schembri was named Footballer of the Year for that season.

It was a fitting tribute to a down-to-earth clubman who never played for personal glory but always for the benefit of his team.

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