Black Sunday at Schreiber Ground

Black Sunday at Schreiber Ground

The old Schreiber Sports Ground used to host games from the lower divisions of Maltese football.

The old Schreiber Sports Ground used to host games from the lower divisions of Maltese football.

In 1966-67, the Third Division was divided into three sections of six teams each. The winners in each group had to play in a mini-league to decide the eventual category winners.

The only difference from other seasons was that two clubs were promoted. This made the competition keener, especially in the Promotion Pool where, unfortunately, serious trouble erupted and violence reared its ugly head.

As was expected, Little Rainbows won Section A quite easily but Section B was more balanced.

Sta Venera lost their first game against Żebbuġ Rangers but they recovered from that setback. They kept pace with Rangers until they won the direct second-round encounter.

Sta Venera then went on to win section honours without dropping further points.

In Section C, Żejtun Corinthians and Siġġiewi remained unbeaten until they faced each other in the penultimate group game. The Corinthians won 1-0 to book a place in the deciders.

The deciders drew large crowds to the Schreiber Sports Ground.

Sta Venera drew 0-0 with Żejtun before defeating Little Rainbows by a single goal. Żejtun, however, failed to stay in touch with the Saints when they drew 0-0 with the team from Tarxien.

The second round started with Żejtun and the Rainbows sharing the spoils in another 0-0 draw, leaving everything to be decided in the most important match of the series between Sta Venera and Żejtun.

Sunday, May 14, 1967, however, turned out to be the darkest day in the history of the old Schreiber Sports Ground. That day, there were deplorable scenes of violence when three games were abandoned and a fourth was nearly so.

It all started when the Third Division Cup match between Marsaxlokk and St Patrick’s was abandoned with three minutes to go with the seasiders leading 2-0.

Later in the morning, the cup game between Siġġiewi and Gudja was also abandoned very late in the match with the former team leading 1-0.

Fighting also broke out among the players in the U-21 Cup encounter between Floriana and Hibernians. All these incidents arose over disputed goals. Then, the trouble reached its peak in the Żejtun vs Sta Venera decider.

The heat was unbearable, forcing tempers to rise sky-high. Throughout the game rival supporters fought private battles on the terraces. It was in this suffocating atmosphere that the game was played.

Referee attacked

Five minutes from time, the Saints led 1-0 and Żejtun, despite playing with 10 men, were searching for a life-saving equaliser.

In doing so, however, they left their backdoor open and in a quick counter-attack, Sta Venera made it 2-0. This was too much for the Corinthians. They lost their heads and attacked the referee.

The police had a hard task to control the situation and the referee, fearing for his life, abandoned the match and raced to his dressing-room.

Żejtun were suspended until the end of the season and Little Rainbows were automatically promoted to the Second Division irrespective of the result of their final game against Sta Venera.

Little Rainbows gained a notable double when they carried off the Third Division knock-out competition. Naturally the favourites were the league winners, Sta Venera.

The Saints however, concentrated more on the promotion tussles than the cup competition.

As a result, they were surprisingly eliminated in the first round by Marsaxlokk. As if to prove that this victory was not a fluke, Marsaxlokk then ousted St Patrick 2-0 and Senglea Athletic 2-1 to reach the final.

Little Rainbows were nearly knocked out in the first round by Luqa St Andrew’s. The latter were leading 2-1 with only a couple of minutes left for play when Leli Pace equalised. Then in extra-time, Mintoff scored the winner.

The Rainbows went on to eliminate Rabat and Siġġiewi to book their place in the final.

Marsaxlokk put up a gallant fight but it was the Rainbows who prevailed on the day with an opportunistic goal scored by Sunny Young.

It was the second year in succession that the Rainbows had won the cup and both times the winning goal was scored by Young.

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