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Stripes’ days were best for Bugeja

Football Shadows from the past (1,147)

Louis Bugeja receiving the 1960 Second Division championship trophy from then Malta FA president Maurice DeCesare.

Louis Bugeja receiving the 1960 Second Division championship trophy from then Malta FA president Maurice DeCesare.

My memories of Louis Bugeja are of an elegant and classy footballer.

I admired the way he hovered over the ball, his accurate passing and his natural ability to score vital goals.

Bugeja figured for Birkirkara at a time when the Stripes had not yet established themselves among the elite of Maltese football.

Otherwise, I am sure Bugeja would have developed into a much finer footballer.

Bugeja was born in Birkirkara on March 21, 1941.

After going through the usual preliminaries of kicking a ball around the streets of the town and an apprenticeship with the Birkirkara Oratory football team, he joined the Birkirkara FC minors in 1954.

He stood out straightaway in a very talented XI.

A natural footballer, he could play in any position but his natural skills and intelligence made him an ideal candidate for the important centre-half role.

However, when he was promoted to the Under-21 side he was pushed forward to the inside-left position. This role better suited his attacking instincts.

Bugeja made his first-team debut for Birkirkara on November 10, 1956 against Ħamrun Spartans.

The Stripes lost that game 1-0 but Bugeja, aged only 16, played well enough to keep his place in the squad.

That season, he made seven first-team appearances and scored the goal that helped Birkirkara defeat the Spartans in the second-round encounter.

Bugeja stayed with Birkirkara up to 1962 during which time he played 50 games in the First Division, scoring seven goals.

However, he was too good for a team like Birkirkara who, in those days, rarely ventured past the mid-point of the league table. The big clubs were all after his signature and during the summer of 1962 he joined Floriana.

However, his stay with the Greens was not a happy one. He never reached his full potential and spent only four seasons with the Irish during which he only had a Scicluna Cup medal to show for his efforts.

In 1966, Bugeja was transferred to Msida St Joseph. He made his debut for the Saints in the Second Division on November 6, 1966 – in a 3-1 win over Birkirkara.

He marked his first match for his new club with a brace of goals against his old club.

In his first season, Msida won promotion to the First Division. Bugeja played 21 league games and netted eight goals.

Bugeja was happy at Msida where he was playing at the top of his form but in 1970 he returned to his origins and signed for a second time for Birkirkara.

The last five seasons of his career were by far the happiest.

In the first year of his return with the Stripes, he helped the team to win the Second Division championship.

Then, during the next three seasons, he played 52 league games and scored four goals in the top flight.

By now he was getting on in years and after playing for one season in the Third Division for Sirens, he retired from the game at the age of 37.

Bugeja was a fine player indeed. I remember him quite well and I always liked his elegant style of play. However, as far as honours are concerned, he was very unlucky.

Lesser players than him have donned the national jersey but, strangely, he was never chosen to represent his country

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