Season 1907-08 was an important one in the history of football in Malta.
The unfolding events had an important impact on the development of the game on our islands.
Several attempts were made before 1907 to organise a football competition between clubs but these efforts failed. The lack of a governing body and the lack of a suitable enclosed ground were the main reasons behind these failures.
The ground problem was solved to a certain extent when the British authorities granted the students of the Lyceum and University a piece of land in Marsa to turn into a football ground. The Lyceum ground was inaugurated on October 26, 1907 and during that season, the Junior Football League was played at the new venue.
This league was open to both Maltese youth teams and Service selections. The competition was won by the boys of the Royal Artillery after a keen and very interesting battle with Melita FC, of Vittoriosa.
The interest generated by this competition eventually led to the first-ever Maltese football league in season 1909-10.
The Garrison Football League in 1907-08 was won by the Worcestershire Regiment and the Governor’s Cup by the RA Eastern Section. These competitions attracted the crowds to Marsa.
On the other side of the harbour, the Navy Football League drew huge crowds to Corradino.
One must keep in mind that, in those days, the Maltese supported service teams with the same passion that they follow English and Italian clubs nowadays.
The people of the Cottonera area were all for the Navy while those on the other side of the harbour supported the Army.
The Navy League champions that season were the HMS Minerva team, while HMS Lancaster won the Second Division and HMS Angler won the Third Division league.
That season, the annual football match for the Daily Malta Chronicle Cup between the Army and the Navy was won 3-0 by the former with goals from Owen (2) and Behague.
Floriana and St George’s played a series of friendly matches against service teams which helped to raise the interest and stoke the bitter rivalry which existed between the two districts.
In December 1907, the captain of St George’s, Josie Fearne, issued an open challenge in the local newspapers to all the civilian teams in Malta.
Then, in January 1908, St George’s challenged the winners of the Junior Football League for a cup.
As far as I could ascertain, this game was never played. The Saints were, at the time, the undisputed kings of Maltese football and few teams were prepared to accept their challenge.
One team, however, was willing to accept the Saints’ invitation and towards the end of the season, St George’s were challenged by Floriana for a silver cup.
The Saints accepted and after many weeks of long and tough negotiations, a contract was signed by both parties who agreed to hold the game the following season at the service ground of Imtarfa.
The Imtarfa Cup match has since been written in letters of gold in the history of Maltese football and it has become one of the myths and legends of the local game.
That, however, is another story...
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