The Daily Malta Chronicle Cup stands not more than 30cm high without its ebony base. Yet, this trophy is perhaps the most prestigious in the history of Maltese football.

It was way back in 1909 that Notary Francisco Schembri Zarb asked the editor of the Daily Malta Chronicle to donate a cup for a proposed civilian football competition.

The Chronicle editor was intrigued with this idea. Here was a chance for his paper to inject new interest in the new game of football and, of course, to increase the circulation of his newspaper.

Hence, the Daily Malta Chronicle Cup was conceived. It is an attractive little cup made of solid silver which in 1909 must have cost a tidy sum of money. It is, however, not its intrinsic value which makes it precious and unique but the fact that it was the first-ever trophy presented to the Maltese league champions.

Dr Schembri Zarb did not take an active part in the organisation of the competition. He stayed in the background but nominated himself as custodian of the trophy and kept it himself for safe keeping. It was his intention from the start that the cup would remain his property and that it would not be won outright by the winners of the competition.

At first, it was intended to hold the competition on the lines of the English FA Cup. Invitations were printed in the Chronicle and after a short while applications were received from Floriana, Senglea Shamrocks, Hamrun St Joseph's, Boys Empire League, Margerita FC, St George's, Vittoriosa Melita, Sliema Wanderers, St Barbara FC and the University.

A committee, under the name of the Malta Football Association, was set up at the University with W. Parnis as secretary, Lt. Prewer RA as president and Mr Lennard treasurer.

Everything seemed set for the start of the competition but then one by one the teams started to drop out, until only Floriana, Boys Empire League, University and Sliema Wanderers were left along with a late addition to the list, St Joseph's United, of Msida.

The defections forced the organising committee to change the competition from a knockout into a league competition.

The matches were all played at the Lyceum Ground, Marsa.

This was an open ground and therefore no admission could be charged.

More important, goalposts and nets were not available and every team had to provide its own. Holes were left in the ground for the poles and instead of a crossbar, a length of ribbon was stretched from one pole to the other.

This was a source of many arguments and it caused the abandonment of the first game between Sliema and Floriana which was replayed later on in the competition.

That fiery start set a pattern for the seasons to come. It soon became customary for the players to leave the field for the least provocation, or for the supporters to invade the ground whenever they fancied.

In those days, the rules said that for a match to count, it had to be played to the very end.

It was obvious that this rule was made to include matches abandoned because of the weather, failing light or for any other valid reason.

The Maltese, however, made their own rules and whenever their team was losing they entered the pitch and scared the hell out of the referee in the hope that the match would be replayed.

The league continued with Floriana beating University 4-0. Sliema drew 0-0 against Boys Empire.

Boys Empire League met St Joseph's United in a broiling match, which ended in a 3-2 victory for the Msida team. Then Boys Empire League trounced the University 5-0. A few days later the students lost 3-0 to the Wanderers.

On April 3, 1910, Floriana met Empire who needed a win to keep challenging. The game seemed to be petering to a 0-0 draw when Jack Holland scored to give the Greens two valuable points.

Three-way tussle

The fight was now restricted to Floriana, Sliema and St Joseph's. All three teams were unbeaten and still had to play against each other.

Sliema and St Joseph's United met on April 17, 1910 in front of one of the biggest crowds ever seen at Marsa.

Unfortunately, this interesting match was marred with many serious incidents. At half-time the score was 1-1 but shortly after the resumption, Sliema scored and this triggered a general free-for-all.

The match was abandoned and Sliema were awarded the points.

The game between Floriana and St Joseph's United was never played. Floriana were awarded a walkover.

The match that decided the championship was played on April 24, 1910. This was the replay between Floriana and Sliema.

This time the game was decided in Floriana's favour following a Salvu Samuel goal.

This match brought to an end the first-ever Maltese league competition. However, although Floriana won the competition, the cup being a challenge trophy, was retained by Dr Schembri Zarb.

Floriana were not happy with the situation and they took the case to court. Three years had to pass before the issue was finally decided.

After winning the league three times in succession Floriana won the cup outright and it stands to this day in their showcase.

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