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Forty years from Għajnsielem’s greatest feat

Frans Magro lifted by his team-mates after scoring the goal which gave Għajn-sielem their fifth Gozitan championship in a row back in 1974.Frans Magro lifted by his team-mates after scoring the goal which gave Għajn-sielem their fifth Gozitan championship in a row back in 1974.

Between 1949 and 1953 Floriana FC won four consecutive championships and established a record for Maltese football which still stands 60 years later.

This was a great achievement by perhaps the greatest ever club side in the history of Maltese football. Other teams have come near to equalling the feat but none has succeeded.

Having made this statement I must, however, mention another excellent feat which occurred on our sister island of Gozo.

Between 1969 and 1974, Għajnsielem FC won five consecutive championships.

Of course, the level is not the same but that does not detract in any way from the Blacks’ achievement.

To commemorate that golden chapter in Għajnsielem’s history on its 40th anniversary, I want to dedicate this week’s article, based on the information provided by Shaun Tabone, to the Blacks.

Għajnsielem FC are among the main clubs in the Gozitan league.

Founded in 1936 by Bernard Hersey OFM and Carmelo Mallia, who worked as a nurse at Fort Chambray, the club is the oldest on the island. On May 21, that same year, Għajnsielem won the first official football match in Gozo and the first honour and trophy – the Zammit Cup.

After World War Two, football in Gozo was dominated by Salesians Youths.

Għajnsielem went through a period of turmoil and in 1962 the club was relegated. The Blacks, however, came back and won the Independence Cup in 1964/65 and the Galea Cup in 1966/67 and 1967/68.

It was in the late 1960s that Għajnsielem made the breakthrough and in the 1969/70 season they won the first championship in their history. Another three successful years followed which saw Għajnsielem win the title for four years in a row.

Sub Magro nets winner

June 8, 1974, is certainly the most glorious day in the history of Għajnsielem FC.

In late afternoon of that hot June day, they sealed their fifth championship after a decider against Victoria Hotspurs. The goal that mattered was scored by 17-year-old Frans Magro three minutes from time.

Below is a short report of the game written by Tabone which gives a very good account of what happened that afternoon.

“The Silver Jubilee Ground was crammed with people for possibly the largest crowd in its history. Għajnsielem settled first but as the game went on, the Hotspurs started sharing possession. They did threaten on two occasions but somehow the Blacks cleared the danger.

“For the second half, Għajnsielem introduced young Frans Magro for Alfred Azzopardi. With two minutes to go, Toni Cauchi dashed down the right and crossed the ball. Xerri missed but to everyone’s surprise Magro came dashing from the blind side, sprung headlong and connected solidly. Ball and player were in the net.

“The players mobbed Magro who was still tangled in the net, then lifted him up and carried him to our side because he was still disorientated and not completely sure what was going on around him.

This was not only a brilliant goal worthy of winning any competition in the world, but a goal from which no team could possibly recover.

“The Hotspurs players staggered. These were scenes that will certainly never be forgotten. The final whistle was then blown. The crowd burst across the retaining wall in search of their heroes, most notably boy wonder Magro.

“Amid the joyous confusion, the president of the Gozo Football Association, Koli Apap, finally managed to present the Renton Cup to captain Loreto Galea.”

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