My grandpa, Joseph Barbara

Another post in Malta and International Football Collection fb group that mentions my grandpa, Joseph Barbara.



This is the standard formation of St George’s which played in the Malta Football League of 1913-14 and ended joint leaders with Ħamrun Spartans. Yet, they lost the league championship on goal difference in a peculiar way….. But we’ll come to that later.

First the names of the players in the picture: (From Left to Right)

Top Row: Goalkeeper Fredu Flask Standing: Leli Busuttil ‘Balolu’, Salvu Sacchett, Ġużi Pisani, Ġużi Tagliaferro (grandfather of Fr Hilary) and Johnnie Consiglio

Sitting: Committee Members of St George’s with team captain Josie Fearne sitting in the middle. From the committee members one can easily recognise the Club President Salvatore Gulia (sitting sixth from left – next to Josie Fearne) and Club Secretary Joe Barbara ‘Il-Mast’ (sitting, first from right).

Front Row: Masu Hicks, G. Pavia, Carmelo Tabone ‘Il-Latti’ and J. Seychell.

– The Cups on show are the Duncan Cup (won against HMS Duncan in April 1910 with a goal six minutes before full time from Ġużi Tagliaferro who kept playing with a fractured arm); the Mile End Knock-Out Cup (won against St Joseph United in April 1912 Tagliaferro scored twice again in a 3-0 win); the Exmouth Cup (won in 1911); the Floriana Cup (won in May 1900 3-1 against Floriana

– the first match ever to be played for a Silver Cup) and the two Junior League Cups won in seasons 1912-13 and 1908-09- Goalkeeper Fredu Flask (top row, in white) was the first ever player to be banned from playing football when he was suspended for a month as he caused the abandonment of the match against Floriana in December 1912. He had left the field of play and went fighting among the crowd targeting a spectator who had hit him with a stone. Things ran out of hand as fighting spilled onto the pitch and the match had to be abandoned. The 3-0 result in favour of Floriana was allowed to stand. Flask was suspended for a month.


The first known Malta Football Association This was the first Football League organized by the Malta Football Association. Actually, competitive football had been taking place since February 1910, but the first three football leagues were managed by an ad-hoc League and Competition Committees.

The first Council of the Malta Football Association was made up of these gentlemen (as found on the Daily Malta Chronicle of 11th November 1913 – page 5).

President: Major Henry Alexander Balbi

Vice President: Mr. Arthur GaleaHon.

Secretary: Mr. R. FloresAsst.

Hon. Secretary: Mr. William Henry Parnis

Members: Capt. E. Amato Gauci, Mr. J. Bellizzi, Mr. A. E. Blunden, Mr. J. Camilleri, Mr. M. Ciantar, Major J. A. Galizia, Mr. E. J. Hooper, Mr. A. Montano, Mr. J. J. Rawlings.

Thus from the above formation of Committee it transpires that Major Henry Alexander Balbi of 55 Victoria Avenue, Sliema was the first MFA President. Major Balbi was also President of the Malta Art Amateur Association and a member in the Committee of St. John Ambulance Association as well.

The newly born Association, whose offices were at 150, Strada Forni, Valletta, made an important milestone in its short existence when it sought and obtained affiliation with The Football Association (London). This affiliation was to stand for almost 50 years.—-Goal Average Introduced…With Disastrous Consequences!

Due to this affiliation with The FA (London) the Malta Football Association thought it wise that among its League Competition Rules it would introduce the goal average as was the case in the UK. This new Rule, however, gave way to some peculiar and suspicious results. Primarily, the league developed into a keen battle between Ħamrun Spartans and St George’s. The Saints had won all their league matches including the direct clash against Ħamrun Spartans (1-0).Surprisingly, mighty Floriana, at the time bitter rivals of St George’s, lost twice against Msida Rangers (0-2) and Valletta United (0-1) and were out of the title race….but yet they were to decide where the title should go. Now, for the record, Floriana had already resigned from this league as they were not allowed to field a player who had started the league with Valletta United. Yet, they were re-instated by the MFA and allowed to have it their way.And they did. As goal average was in place, Floriana fielded a weak side against the Spartans fielding in goal an unknown Duminku Fenech as they were happy to lose 11-0 that fateful day. St George’s informed the MFA that the Greens did it on purpose, but the Spartans promptly pointed out that when St George’s won against Melita FC (they were from Vittoriosa, not to be confused with the Amateur club from Sliema-St Julian’s) it was rumored that Melita had allowed them to score five easy goals (prompting the ‘Ħamsa Ċikk’ saying). The Malta Football Association decided that the final result of this match should read 4-0 instead of 11-0 so that Ħamrun Spartans would be equal on points and goal difference with St. George’s. The Saints however had a game in hand.In fact, there was still St. George’s against Floriana to be played, even though there were huge doubts whether this match would be played at all as for their unsportsmanlike conduct Floriana received a month suspension which had to end on the 29th April 1914. Their match against St George’s was scheduled for the 26th April 1914 – three days before. One might have thought that St. George’s were to be awarded a walk-over and win the league, however the MFA thought it fit that the match would take place all the same a week later – on 3rd May 1914, when the suspension would have expired. Then why the suspension, one would ask?In any case, on 3rd May, Floriana rediscovered their true football prowess as they defeated St. George’s 2-0 and handed the title to the Spartans on better goal average.


Sunday 3rd May 1914

Mile End Sports GroundKick-Off: 4.00 p.m.Floriana FC – St. George’s FC 2-0 Scorers: Salvu Tabone (F) 30’ and Xerri (F) 80’.Floriana FC: Henry Hamilton, Ruġġieru Friggieri ‘Iż-Żibġa’, Borg, Joe Tabone, Ġużi Mallia ‘In-Nippi’, Manwel Vella‘Il-Bażokk’, Ġużi Samuele, Jack Herbert, Salvu Tabone ‘Tal-Luminata’, Salvu Samuele, Xerri.St. George’s FC: Fredu Flask, Masu Hicks, Salvu Sacchett, Leli Busuttil ‘Balolu’, Ġużi Fearne, Johnnie Consiglio, J. Seychell, G. Ciantar, Ġużi Tagliaferro, Carmenu ‘Il-Latti’ Tabone, J. Pisani.

Referee: Sgt. Webb (Warwicks)Linesmen: Sgt. Cox (Middlesex Regt.) and Corporal Blackwell (Warwicks)- A full house of 8,000 spectators were present for this match. The gates of the Mile End Sports Ground opened at 1.00 p.m.

– that is three hours before kick-off. At that time there was already a queue of about seventy people and by 3.30 p.m. no more spectators were allowed inside the ground except those with reserved seats.- This was the first match played by Floriana following the month suspension inflicted on them by the MFA after the 11-0 deliberate defeat at the hands of The Spartans. The suspension in fact had ended only four days before – on 29th April 1914.- The match was originally scheduled to be played the previous Sunday 26th April 1914 but did not take place as Floriana were still suspended.- At. 3.49 p.m. from the direction of the dressing-room on the Valletta side of the ground a football rocketed up and dropped on the arena and with its second bounce, amid a crash of deafening cheers and clapping of hands the Floriana team ran into the field of play. A minute later a ball went high up in the sky and as it bounced out came St. George’s FC in their yellow and dark green colours. At. 3.57 p.m. out came the referee and the two linesmen. At 3.59 p.m. St. George’s FC won the toss of the coin and chose the side in favour of the wind exactly on time 4.00 p.m. Floriana kicked off.- After 26 minutes, play was stopped as the crowd spilled onto the pitch near the Floriana goal and police intervention was required.- Ciantar of St. George’s FC and Salvu Tabone of Floriana FC were both sent off in the 75th minute when they came to blows. Once again the Police had to enter the field of play to control the two players.

– The Daily Malta Chronicle declared Ħamrun Spartans as League Champions however the Malta Herald did not pronounce itself on this issue as the Editor was aware of the intention of Valletta United FC to protest and claim the title for themselves.

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