Tribute to Hibs stalwart Anastasi

Sunny Anastasi

Sunny Anastasi

Despite possessing a valid squad, Hibs somehow found it difficult to challenge for the honours in their early years.

From their first campaign in 1933-34 to the end of the 50s, Hibs’ customary place in the league was in mid-table. There were times, too, when they had to fight hard to keep their place in the top division.

Hibs’ fortunes changed dramatically in the late fifties. Their days of glory were around the corner and one of the brightest pages in the history of the club was about to be written.

In 1959-60, the Paolites were Valletta’s main challengers for the honours and it was only their defeat to the Citizens in the last stages of the competition that knocked them out of the running for the title.

I began to follow football at the Stadium in season 1959-60.

Before that, my football was restricted to the Schreiber Sports Ground.

I remember vividly the first time I went to the famous old ground and, as luck would have it, it was a derby game between Hibs and St George’s.

Of course, I do not recall the details of the game... I have to delve deep into my brain to refresh my memory.

One thing I remember well was the polished display by Sunny Anastasi, who, unfortunately, died last Monday.

He was one of the stalwarts of that wonderful team which brought the first championship pennant to my home town Paola in 1960-61 and the FA Trophy and Cassar Cup in 1961-62.

Anastasi was born in Msida on April 5, 1934.

He joined Hibernians from Pietà Hotspurs in season 1952-53, making his league debut on February 8, 1953 in the 2-3 defeat against Floriana.

A constructive wing-half, Anastasi was also a versatile player who could play equally well at full-back or centre-half.

He fitted well in Hibs’ young side, forming a sound partnership with Louis Theobald and Leli Attard. Up to the time he retired in 1969, he hardly missed a game.

In all, he played 164 competitive matches for Hibs, 130 of them in the league.

Anastasi was also a prominent member of the famous Royal Malta Artillery team which dominated Services’ football in the fifties and sixties. An automatic choice for the Pick Army and Combined Services XI’s, he toured North Africa and the Middle East regularly, playing against top foreign service XI’s.

Always loyal to Hibs, he helped the club to win the league in 1960-61 and 1968-69.

He also won the Cassar Cup in 1961-62 and 1962-63.

In my youth, Anastasi was one of my heroes.

His intelligent play, integrity and 100 per cent commitment made him very popular among the numerous Hibs followers.

It was a pity that he was not always available to play for the team in key matches because of his Army commitments. Otherwise, his career would have been more pronounced.

On the national front, Anastasi was picked twice to play for Malta in full internationals.

On June 18, 1961, he wore the national shirt for the first time in the 0-3 defeat against Italy C at the Gzira Stadium.

The other occasion he played for Malta was on November 7 of the same year when Malta drew 1-1 at home to Norway.

He also played four times for the Paolites in European competitions.

Anastasi will always be remembered as a skilful and clever midfielder. However, most of all, he will be remembered for his loyalty to Hibs.

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