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Zammit... a pillar in the Greens defence

Leli Zammit (left) celebrating with Benny Camilleri, Harold Herbert, Lolly Borg and Lolly Debattista after winning one of his four FA Trophy medals with Floriana.

Leli Zammit (left) celebrating with Benny Camilleri, Harold Herbert, Lolly Borg and Lolly Debattista after winning one of his four FA Trophy medals with Floriana.

Leli Zammit was born in Floriana on December 20, 1926. He learned his trade playing football around the bastions of the locality before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Zammit showed a lot of early promise but had to wait until 1943 to make his first official appearance on a football field with Floriana Brittania.

Zammit’s hard tackling, long kicking and excellent positional play soon attracted the attention of the Floriana FC committee and in 1947 he signed amateur forms for the Greens as a second division player.

This was the era of the famous Floriana Ajax and although Zammit was not an established member of the clan he soon settled down with the famous ‘Floriana Miniatures’.

A natural left-back, he gave solidity to all the teams he played for and when the entire Ajax team was introduced into the first division, he was promoted with them to senior football.

It was in season 1948-49 when, after an uncharacteristic run of poor results, the committee decided to elevate en bloc the famous Ajax team to the first division.

Already famous in junior circles, the youngsters could not have had a better start. They beat Melita 2-0, Hibs 3-2 and Naxxar 2-1 before losing 3-2 to Ħamrun Spartans.

Soon their continental style of play began to attract huge crowds to the stadium but they were still too young for the hurly-burly of league football and unable to cope with teams that went out of their way to put them off their game with rough tackles.

It was here that Zammit came into the picture. His strength and never-say-die spirit counter balanced the pretty tip-tapping style of his team-mates.

In his days, full-backs were pure defenders and their job was to prevent speedy wingers (of whom there were many) from racing down the flanks and sending in crosses into the penalty area for the waiting centre-forward. Zammit was tall and strong and he presented a formidable barrier for the wing-men to beat.

This was the start of the greatest era in the history of Floriana.

The Ajax, now wearing the colours of Floriana FC, reached their peak between 1949 and 1953 when the club won the league title four years in succession and completed two Triple Crowns.

Surely, this is a valid claim for the title of the greatest Maltese team of all time.

This was also the beginning of an exciting eight-year period for Zammit in which he won the league championship five times. He also won four FA Trophy finals and four Cassar Cup medals.

Zammit was picked to play for the MFA XI six times against visiting teams and he also took part with the MFA Under 20 XI in the International Youth Tournament which was played in Palermo in 1949.

Zammit retired in 1955. He died on June 26, 2003 at the age of 77.

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