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Valletta United clinch title in 1931-32

Valletta United, 1931-32 league champions.

Valletta United, 1931-32 league champions.

Valletta United, Sliema Wanderers, Floriana, St George's and Ħamrun Spartans applied to take part in the 1931-32 league but, at the last minute, Floriana and St George's withdrew their application and did not take part in any competitive football that season.

Sliema Hotspurs stepped in to fill the void left by the two pioneers of Maltese football.

At the start of 1930-31, the Tigers of Floriana had applied to compete in the Civilian League. Their application was turned down on the grounds that only one representative from each district could play in the tournament. This led to the disbandment of the club.

In 1931-32, however, the league had no representative from Floriana but there were two teams from Sliema! The followers of Maltese football may well have wondered why was the precedent created in the Tigers' case? Such contradictory policies by the MFA were very hard to explain.

Founded in 1904, Valletta United had, by 1931, only won the championship once, way back in season 1914-15 at the Mile End. Since the move to the Empire Sports Ground, the league had always been won by Floriana or Sliema Wanderers.

One of the biggest 'sells' in the history of local football occurred on Sunday, December 2, 1931 when Sliema Hotspurs met Sliema Wanderers in the opening match of the league. The Hotspurs turned out to be none other than Sliema Rangers in disguise and very feeble Rangers at that.

The spectators at the Empire witnessed a dull game. The Spurs were not better than the average amateur Second Division club and as a matter of fact played at the Mile End on Sunday mornings under the name of Red Arrows.

Sliema treated Spurs lightly but still beat them 7-0.

Valletta United were undoubtedly the team of the moment.

Signing such players as 'Gejta' Azzopardi, Pawlu Friggieri, Baskal Scicluna and Salvu Grima from Floriana, Valletta started the season with seven consecutive victories against the best Service teams of the time.

The Spartans had the distinction of halting the march of the all-conquering City.

Valletta were firm favourites to win when the teams met in the second match of the league. The Spartans, however, rolled up their sleeves and for the whole 90 minutes defended with grit, forcing a 0-0 draw.

The league continued with an easy 4-0 win for Valletta over Sliema Hotspurs. Following this match, Sliema Wanderers outclassed the Spartans. The latter had strengthened their ranks with the signing of Ġuże Alamango from Floriana but they were routed by Sliema six goals to one.

When Sliema faced Valletta on March 20, 1931, the Blues had a one-point lead over their opponents. The Citizens therefore had to win this match to clinch the championship.

The Wanderers had Pisani and Sansone missing. Miggiani, a winger, was drafted in at right-half while 'Brownie' Sammut was moved back to left-half. These changes disrupted the Wanderers' usual rhythm.

Sliema opened very confidently and for the first 10 minutes, kept the ball in the City territory. United however, were the first to score through Busuttil in the 21st minute.

This goal roused the Wanderers and within two minutes Cauchi equalised. Valletta now started to share the exchanges and in the 33rd minute Salvu Grima gave them the lead which they kept up to half-time.

Knowing that only a victory would do for them, Valletta dropped further back. For the rest of the game, Sliema went all out for the equaliser but failed to break down Valletta's resistance.

The crowd stayed on its feet as the gallant Valletta defenders repelled wave after wave of Sliema attacks, but when full time arrived, Valletta were still leading by the odd goal in three.

At long last, after a lapse of 17 years, the championship returned to Valletta.

Jubilant scenes recalling the good old days of Maltese football were witnessed after the match when the Citizens were presented with the Johnnie Walker Cup.

That evening, it was time to feast for Valletta as the celebrations went on long into the night.

The story, however, did not have a happy ending as we shall see in the next articles.

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