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Polverini legacy in local game

Leads national team to historic win in the European Championship

Coach Terenzio Polverini (second left, wearing dark sunglasses) following the national team from the sidelines during an international match at the old Gzira stadium.Coach Terenzio Polverini (second left, wearing dark sunglasses) following the national team from the sidelines during an international match at the old Gzira stadium.

The sad news hit the islands a few days ago that Terenzio Polverini had passed away in Terni, Italy, at the age of 79.

Polverini was one of the most colourful characters of his era in the local game.

Foreign coaches are not new in our game. Since the early days of Maltese football the locals have made use of the knowledge and experience of foreigners.

At first, the coach, or trainer as he was called in those days, would be an army or navy officer but after the Second World War, former professional British players began to make an appearance.

George Shaw, Stan Williams, H. Hall and Donald McDonald made their presence felt in our game in the late 1940s and 1950s.

After a while this trend was broken, but in the 1960s and 1970s it was resumed with the arrival of Ted Philips to Floriana and Janos Bedl to Sliema Wanderers as player-coaches.

A little later Polverini, a slick and well-dressed Italian took over the reins of the Wanderers.

Polverini played professional football from 1953 to 1966.

He started his career with Ternana’s youth team before he turned professional in 1960. Polverini played for his hometown club in the Italian league’s lower divisions. In 1962-63 he joined Arezzo before moving on to Bologna in 1963-64.

Bologna had a formidable team in that era with stars like Bulgarelli, Mielner, Holler, Pascutti and Negri.

Polverini found it very difficult to get a game in such illustrious company but at least he could boast that in his own small way he helped Bologna win the scudetto.

In 1964-65, Polverini returned to Ternana but a serious injury forced him to retire. He did not give up the game, however, and after obtaining the necessary qualifications he took up coaching.

His career took him to Ternana where he stayed for some years in Serie B and for one brief period in Serie A. Then he came to Malta in 1973 and won the FA Trophy in his first season with Sliema.

In 1974, Polverini was handed the responsibility of coaching the national team, a job which he kept up to 1976.

During his short but eventful stay as Malta coach, Polverini won distinction by leading the team to their first-ever victory in the European Championship.

It was June 4, 1975 when under his guidance Malta beat Greece 2-0 in one of the most memorable matches in the history of the national team.

Joining Valletta in 1976-77, he led the Citizens to FA Trophy glory. Then he returned to Italy where he resumed his coaching career with various Serie C clubs.

Between 1983 and 1985 Polverini tried his luck in Bahrain where he took the First Division club Mavania to the league and cup double.

In September 1985, Polverini returned to Malta, this time with Hibernians.

His stay with the Paola club was quite uneventful. Then came a rather more successful period at Naxxar Lions when he took the club to the Premier Division.

In a short stay with Hamrun Spartans in 1988-89, Polverini won the Super Cup and finished a creditable third in the league.

Then came other short stays with Naxxar and Zurrieq before finally settling down with his most recent club, Birzebbuga St Peter’s.

In all this time, Polverini’s magic touch never deserted him.

His star, however, never reached the same heights as on that faithful day in 1975 when on the bone hard pitch of the Gzira stadium the Maltese national team and supporters tasted the sweet dregs of victory for the first time.

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