On Sunday, January 16, 1938, thousands of football-mad supporters made their way to the Stadium, the scene of the oldest feud in the history of the local game.
The sequence of matches between Floriana and St George's dated back to 1900 when the legendary 'Floriana Cup' encounter was played. The Imtarfa Cup match of 1908, the duel 'in camera' of 1912, and the long years in which Floriana seemed to cast a spell on St George's all make up fascinating chapters of the local game's history.
Interest for the 1938 match soared as the fixture approached, particularly due to the fact that both clubs were in the running for the championship. It was just like old times!
However, as so often happens on such occasions, after all the shouting had died down, everyone agreed that the clash did not reach the heights expected.
Floriana registered a vital 1-0 victory to keep in touch with Sliema Wanderers at the top of the table and to qualify for the Cassar Cup. But the fashion of their victory on the day left their supporters disappointed.
You could describe it as a day for the defences. The two rearguards soaked up the attacks of their opponents quite easily.
Both teams seemed to lack punch in front, especially Floriana. A tremendous amount of work was wasted due to the lack of understanding between their forwards. Although they were more attack-minded than the men from Cospicua, Floriana were careless in their conclusions.
Many thought Floriana should never have won this encounter. Lady luck once again turned its back on St George's.
Throughout the whole 90 minutes, play was evenly divided. Both sides had their chances, but the best of all came St George's way.
Centre-forward Galea forced his way past two defenders and then, with only Alexander Svoboda to beat, he did the impossible and ballooned the ball over the bar.
St George's paid heavily for this slip. With the referee looking at his watch, Pawlu Storace gathered a loose ball just outside the Saints' penalty area. Evidently hoping that his forwards would hustle the opposition, he lobbed into the goalmouth.
The ball was caught by a gust of wind and Wenzu Gabaretta went up to punch clear with friend and foe rushing at him. He misjudged the flight of the ball which dropped behind him into the net.
There was not even time to restart the game. Floriana clinched the points and moved up to share the top spot of the table with the Wanderers.
Storace's lob went down in history as the one flash of magic in an otherwise dull encounter. Yet, according to contemporary newspaper reports, Storace himself was the most surprised man at the stadium to see the ball going into the net. His was no more than a desperate last-second punt forward, an attempt to keep the ball in the opponents' penalty area before the referee blew his whistle.
The football gods, however, can do anything with a ball, especially for their favourites. Their favourites that day were Floriana.
Indeed, whenever these two teams meet, luck always seems to favour the Irish. It is enough to say that up to that time, St George's had only beaten Floriana once in a competitive encounter.
These things happen in football. This however was no consolation for the unlucky the team from Cottonera.
One could not help but feel sorry for St George's when the game was over. It was the most galling experience to suffer a bizarre goal so late in the game especially after they had controlled the Greens' fury for 89 minutes.
There was nothing to distinguish the two teams, except perhaps, that individual flash of magic which enabled Storace to beat Malta's greatest-ever goalkeeper, the legendary Gabaretta.
For the Record
The League Championship
Division One 1937-38 - January 16, 1938
Floriana vs St George's 1-0
Floriana: Alexander Svoboda, Frankie Tabone, Leo Dunne, Pawlu Storace, Victor Miller, Censu Friggieri, Herbert, George Bond, Holland, Karmenu Cauchi, Leli Cauchi.
St George's: Wenzu Gabaretta, Mifsud, Wenzu Mizzi, Karmenu Debattista, Sipocz, Olah, Scerri, Turu Theobald, Galea, Borg, Harry Brown.
Scorer: Storace. Attendance: 7,426.
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