The Malta Independent 28 May 2018, Monday

St Andrews' 50 years, from amateur team to the Premier League, as told by club President Paul Falzon

Henry Brincat Tuesday, 24 April 2018, 14:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

St Andrews celebrating 50th anniversary this year

The story of a club which started as a small amateur team in Sliema and is now playing in the local Premier League, told to HENRY BRINCAT by club president Paul Falzon.

St Andrews, formerly known as Luxol Sports Club, is this year celebrating its 50th anniversary, having been founded in 1968.

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Club president Paul Falzon, who was also one of the founders, said that it was he and Norman Darmanin Demajo, now MFA president, who started the ball rolling. “We headed a group of enthusiastic and football-loving colleagues and decided to start playing as a street team. Our first participation was in the league organised by the Sliema Sports Association and it was after 15 years that we took the decision to apply to join the Malta Football Association. We were admitted into the parent body in 1983.

“We had a difficult start in the early 60s and 70s, but we would meet at the The Country Club in St Andrews (later The Forum Hotel). We played football at St Georges ground in Pembroke, at the Nicholl Ground in Manoel Island and at the MCAST ground in Msida,” he said.

Falzon went on to say that in the first years, they used Luxol as the name of the club, but we had to change to St Andrews when we joined the MFA. He added: “There was a problem as another team used St Andrews (Luqa) as the name of their club, but everything was solved when the MFA accepted St Andrews FC and Luqa St Andrews as the names of the two clubs. However, we are still recognised as Luxol by several sports lovers, because the club nowadays has other sectors, particularly in basketball, handball, futsal and baseball.” 

In 1994, the club was passing through some difficult moments and debts were accumulating. “I remember I had a meeting with then Birkirkara FC president Joe Gauci and it was proposed – and later approved - that the two clubs amalgamate. We held a meeting with our players and we offered them three options. The first was that they could remain with the club, though playing for Birkirkara, the second was that they could remain with St Andrews but without any wages or salaries, or else (the third) try to find new clubs. Although most of the players decided to join Birkirkara, some players went to other clubs.

“This amalgamation was never expected to be a success and in two years it came to an end as Birkirkara elected Victor Zammit as president and he did not approve it. But thanks to it, we saved the club from possible extinction as through the sale of several players, we managed to retain our status, though starting again from scratch,” he recalled.

Asked when they got hold of their current excellent premises, Falzon said it was in 1984 that they were given the lease of the area and buildings which now host the club and the facilities.

 

Former players, coaches

“With pleasure we say we are proud to have seen such players of the calibre of Norman Darmanin Demajo (he arrived from Qrendi), Alex Busuttil, Gilbert Agius, Sean Sullivan, Kristian Laferla, Ray Vella, Ally Dawson, Norman Buttigieg, Matthew Guillaumier, Kieran Nwoko, Jake Galea, Michael Johnson, Andy Eminyan and Brian Said, among many others, turning out in our club colours,” he stated.

During these years (from 1983), they won the 2nd and 3rd division leagues and Knock Outs but their best was in the late 1990s when the club managed to finish in a highly creditable 4th place in the Premier League.

Among the coaches at the club, they had Robert Kelly, Ally Dawson, Jimmy Briffa, Wayne Attard, Danilo Doncic, Brian Said, Jose Borg and currently Michael Woods, all well known names in the local football scene.

Falzon was the “factotum” of all this, having been president of the club since its foundation till today except for a period of eight years, during which he lived in England. “During those eight years – 1997 to 2005 - my brother Joseph took over at the helm of the club. And during the past four years, the club is now under the hands of my son Jason.

 

Luxol in Wiltshire

He also recalled an interesting story which, perhaps, only a few know about it. This is what he told me while showing me a copy of an English newspaper report. “While I was in England, I and a few others established a team which we called Luxol St Andrews and we started playing in a league in the Wiltshire area, in the first division.

“Till I was there, the team did well in most seasons, but earlier this month, and I was there, the team managed to reach the final of the Knockout Cup after beating Melksham Town A 2-1 in the semifinals. And in the League, till Saturday 31 March, they were occupying 4th place on 28 points, just three away from top club Freshford United,” he said.

 

Other sports disciplines

Falzon is also proud that the club has branched out in other sports and, as already stated, these include basketball, handball, futsal and baseball.

“Credit must be given to the respective coaches – John Tabone and Joseph Falzon, Joe Tanti, Joe Aquilina and Patrick Attard. They work hard to see the respective club teams improving year by year,” he added.

 

The nursery

Going to the St Andrews (Luxol) premises and interviewing the club president, I could not fail to mention the nursery, one of the best organised on the island.

Falzon said: “It is certainly the biggest in Malta with 645 registered youngsters (a record this season). It started way back in the late 60s and has continued to grow ever since. Former football national team coach Pippo Psaila is synonymous with it. He has always been involved and has run it in a professional manner. Not a surprise to see so many parents bringing their children here.

“Our aim is clear to all. We wish to see more children joining our nursery in an effort to keep them away from all sorts of evil. We wish to be able to kick start a career in football for the promising youngsters. At present we have a 17-year-old, Marcus Grima, who already plays in the Premier League, but is also with Serie A club Udinese. We also had two others with Udinese, but at the moment, their main interest is on Grima. We would be glad to have other promising youngsters moving abroad to start a career in the game of football,” he remarked.

The nursery accepts young children from the very young age of three up to the Under 15 level. Falzon went on to say that from the Under 15s upwards, the teams play in the local competitions. “Last year, our Under 15s, the Under 17s and the Under 19s established a new record as they won all their competitions,” he said.

The club president said the facilities include the club house with a full-time staff, four small pitches and the full size stadium, though with a small capacity where MFA second and third division matches are staged.

 

Most exciting and disappointing moments

Finally, I asked Falzon what his most exciting and disappointing moments during this long career at the helm of the club were.

He responded: “There were two exciting moments which I will always remember. The first was the day when we played and beat Zurrieq in a decider to avoid relegation. Then again, two years ago we faced Senglea in another decider at the Hibernians Stadium. We won that match 2-1 and it occurred on my birthday. So, it was no surprise that we celebrated together till the early hours of the next day!

“And my biggest disappointment is an ongoing one. It is the lack of sponsorships which should help a club like ours to pay the wages and salaries of our players as there is no other major revenue pumped into the club coffers,” he said.

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