Wednesday, February 8, 2003 will always be remembered by one of Malta’s greatest ever goal-scorers.
On that memorable afternoon, Stefan Sultana scored two goals for Ħamrun Spaartas in a 3-1 victory over Marsaxlokk. Those two goals brought Sultana’s career total to 174 thus beating the previous record held by the legendary Sliema Wanderers centre-forward Tony Nicholl which had withstood the test of time since the late 1950’s.
Nicholl established his record at a time when teams played only a handful of matches in a season. However, in those days, the game was based more on skills than tactics. This made it easier for a talented striker to score goals.
On the other hand, Sultana establised his record at a time when tactics played a big part in the game. This made it much more difficult to score goals.
Stefan was born on July 18, 1968 in Żabbar. He kicked his first ball with Ħamrun Liberty’s nursery. From there he went to Għajn Dwieli Nursery U-16 team but for some reason which I have not been able to find out, Hibs let him go and he joined the Spartans’ Minors.
Hibs’ loss was the Spartans gain. Stefan made his first team debut on April 28, 1985 at the tender age of 16 in the derby game against Marsa which Ħamrun won 4-0.
It took him some time to settle down in the first team and he had to wait nearly two years before he scored his first league goal. He found the net for the first time in season 1987-88 when he helped the Spartans achieve a 1-1 draw against Żurrieq.
This goal took some time in coming but when it did, it opened the deluge gates for Stefan. Goals started to come regularly, and he soon became the Spartans’ main goal-scorer.
Commanding a permanent place in the strong Ħamrun team of that era was no mean task but Stefan prevailed and he went on to help the Spartans win the Championship three times. He also lifted the FA Trophy four times and the Super Cup five times.
During this period, he played 216 games for Ħamrun and netted 129 goals. He also won a regular place in the national team, making 35 appearances and scoring four goals. He also played four times for the Under 21 XI and scored one goal.
One of Sultana’s best performances for Ħamrun was in the 1992 FA Trophy final when he scored both goals in the Spartans 2-1 victory over Valletta.
Another memorable performance was in the 1988 final when he scored two of the four goals with which the Spartans defeated Floriana.
In the league, Stefan’s best campaigns were 1991-92 when he notched in 22 goals and 1996-97 when he hit in 23 goals.
That season, however, his total was bettered by Danilo Doncic who established an all-time season record of 32 goals.
The fact that Sultana only finished at the league’s top-scorer once shows that he was not a spectacular scorer but rather a steady and reliable man to have around the box. Rather in the style of the great Chelsea, Tottenham and England centre-forward Jimmy Greaves who was deadly in the penalty-area.
Stefan continued to lead the Spartans attack up to 1998 when to the dismay of the Spartans’ supporters he was transferred to Hibernians.
With Hibs he played 69 games and scored 25 goals. Then, in 2002 he decided to return to his first-love, Ħamrun.
He was now nearing the end of his long and glorious career.
But football was in his blood and he went on for seven more seasons during which he played another 112 games for Ħamrun and scored 41 goals to up his total to 195 goals in 397 matches. By this time Stefan had become a legend in Ħamrun.
A legend of the good old days in the Spartans’ history which will never be forgotten.
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