Club History- The first 25 years

 

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary from the founding of the Birzebbuga Aquaqtic Sports Club, we believe it is most fitting that we look back at club’s history of these years.

 

Writing a historical record is never easy.  And this is even more difficult when writing about the early years, since at that stage, any organisation is still very fluid and its records not so formal or concise.   What follows, therefore, has been collaged with much patience from person who, for years

were active within the club.  We also consulted club records and those held by the ASA, as well as from public records such as

news papers etc.

 

Although every effort has been made to ensure correctness of the information that follows, we cannot promise that we have

been successful on all aspects.  Therefore, in advance, we offer our apologies, if anything that follows is not exactly as you

remember it.  Any corrections and additions to this article would be most welcome since we are sure that there are still many,

out there, who hold important recollections that are not already reflected in this article.  Our efforts in writing this brief history of

our club is mainly intended for our youths, who should be made aware of the glorious history of their club and the hard work put in by all those involved.

 

Our club was set up in 1955.  The initial proposal by a few individuals to set up a waterpolo team immediately found support amongst the sporting public of the locality Immediately contacts started to be made with persons who could assist in its formation.  Amongst these one can mention Mr. Frank Rizzo Naudi, a goalkeeper with Valletta and ex national player, and the Hon. Dr. Albert V. Hysler, then Minister of Health.  And in June of that year, the first committee was formed as follows:

 

 

Mr.  Nazzareno Dalli. Club President

Mr. Anthony C. Naizer,                Club Secretary

Mr. F.Rizzo Naudi Vice President

Mr. M.Zammit                   Assistant Secretary

Mr. E. Paris Treasurer

Mr. V.Vella Assistant Treasurer

Mr. L.Zerafa Member

Mr. J.Mamo Member

Mr. J Debattista u Member

Mr. B.Izzo Member

 

 

Mr. Naizer remained active within the committee for twenty two years, during which he held various positions including that of club secretary for no less than 14 years. On 2nd July, 1955, the club by the name of Birzebbuga United Aquatic Club applied for membership with the Aquatic Sports Association of Malta ( A.S.A.) and was immediately accepted to take part in the Second Division.

 

The club players for 1955 were :

 

Michael Agius

Charles Xerri

Charles Casaletto

Charles Vella

Paul Aquilina

Archie Brew

Godfrey Schembri

Frederick Swales

Frank Joseph Camenzuli

Alfred Fursman

Joe Michallef

Clarence Vernon Port

Reginal Graham Stevenson

Trevor reginal Outram

Frank Rizzo Nauid

Angelo Grech

 

Initially most of the players in the team were English servicemen serving with Her Majesty’s services in Malta.   The locals that regularly played with the team included

– Frankie Rizzo Naudi – goalkeeper who also acted as coach, and Charlie Vella – Ic-Chopper.  The results for the first year were most encouraging as can be seen from the match results on record.  

 

The first competitive match was played on 24 th July, 1955 against  Marsaxlokk and resulted in a draw of 1-1.   The other results for the season were:

 

Birzebbuga Atalanta 7-2

Birzebbuga Gzira 1-5

Birzebbuga Marsaxlokk 1-3

Birzebbuga Gzira 1-1 ( Birzebbuga were awarded a win after the match was abandoned.)

 

In this first season, the team also competed in the Knock Out final where it lost 1-4 to Marsaxlokk.

 

In those early years, all ASA games were played on a home and away basis.  Home, for our team was a rocky outcrop called Ta’ Nghag, which is in fact, were our old club house was built and where our new club will also be located.   The local residents took the new game to heart and many would attend the matches at home.  A small commercial activity also developed around the game with hawkers setting up shop close by to sell minerals and ice cream.

 

In the mean time, the new committee was drafting the first statute for approval by the first General Meeing called for the 29th  October, 1955 at the Catholic Action house of the village..

 

 

The waterpolo pitch remained at Ta’ Nghag until 1957 where many friendlies were also played against visiting military service teams but especially against HMS Falcon, the Kalafrana Sea Plane Base.   Documents seen by this writer reveal that there were also the occasional water sports festival as well as inter leagues between local under 16 teams.  One of these leagues was run by Mr. Frank Rizzo Naudi where the following 4 teams took part:

 

Dolphins

Sea Dragons

Sea Eagles u

Sharks

 

The first such league was organized in 1955 and won by Sea Eagles.  

 

The fruit of these competition for the under 16 proved most fruitfull  since these introduced to the first team players such as Joe Cachia Zammit, Anthony Tabone, Joe Cailleri, Joe Grima and Salvu Fava, players that soon found their permanent position in the first team.

 

Dolphins

Sea Dragons

Sea Eagles u

Sharks

 

The first such league was organized in 1955 and won by Sea Eagles.  

 

The fruit of these competition for the under 16 proved most fruitfull  since these introduced to the first team players such as Joe Cachia Zammit, Anthony Tabone, Joe Cailleri, Joe Grima and Salvu Fava, players that soon found their permanent position in the first team.

 

In 1958 the waterpolo pitch was moved to Wied Il-Buni  where it continued to be set up annually until 1967.  

 

During this period the club sometimes ran into serious difficulties, mostly financial in nature and in fact, in 1964, the club did not field a team for the local league and was in danger of being abandoned.

 

From these early years, the committee started making plans to have a permanent club and pressure was put on the local authorities to build a jetty and some rooms for the club wherein to store its equipment and organise its meetings.  At Wied il-Buni the authorities had already given rise to commercial activity by permitting an encroachment for a lido to be set up every summer.  However, the club itself was not given a permanent home and storage used was of termporary nature which often fell victim to vandalism and /or theft.  The club’s plans also found opposition from the local boating fraternity who saw it as a potential danger to their own interests.  In 1959 some wooden rooms were built at Wied il-Buni which, however, were immediately destroyed by the first storm that hit the area and all equipment therein was lost.

 

In 1960 there were serious disagreement with the owner of a room that had been let to the club which resulted in the club vacating the premises and becoming homeless once again.

 

During those early years, the committee used to meet in private residencies, mostly of committee members themselves, or in premises generously offered by the other clubs of the locality.  Because of these difficulties, the ASA found it difficult to continue to organise games in the locality and so the club’s home matches were played at the Marsaxlokk pitch.  This naturally affected the attendance of the local spectators at a time when private transport was almost unheard of, and public transport was irregular and costly.  The result of all this was the lowering of the local game standards.  There were instances when the club found it difficult to honour its fixtures and it was not unusual for committee members to go around the British military basis and collect the players from their work place to take them for the match, sometimes even without the permission of their superiors.

 

In those early days, the required financial resources were met by the committee members themselves and contributions from the players.   Transport to match venue was  by public buses unless some volunteer offered his truck or van for the occasion.  In urgent but rare occasions, even taxis or private cars were brought into use.  Such state of affairs was most discouraging to all concerned, but especially to the up coming players who could see no future in the local game. In the years 1961 to 1963, many of the matches were walk-overs against the club and, as already mentioned , in 1964 the club decided not to compete.

 

In 1965 there was talk of a permanent waterpolo pitch being built in the locality.  So it became imperative to have a legally constituted club.  For this reason the committee and the players decided to merge their club with that of the St. Peters Soccer Club.   For the next two years, the local team competed under the name of St. Peter’s S.C, and was administered by a special commission within the Soccer Club.

 

During this period the construction commenced of the first permanent waterpolo pitch in Birzebbuga in the locality known as Ta’ Nghag.  Interest in the game increased considerably the more the construction advanced.

 

At a meeting held at the local Catholic Action house on 30th May, 1967, it was again decided to un-merge the club from St. Peter’s Soccer club and set up once again the Birzebbuga Aquatic Sports Club.  Under the presidency of Mr. Joe Grima, and the technical direction of Joe Cachia Zammit,  the new club started taking its place in the local competitive scene.  Mr. Cachia Zammit later qualified as a coach at an  ASA run coarse.  During that year, a group of youths were enlisted with the club whose talent was to become legendary and who were to give the club its first major title.

 

They formed part of the under 16 team  which during that year was composed of:

 

Patrick Cachia ( il-Beaty)

Joe Borg

Alfred Zahra,

Tarcisio Debono,

Tony d’Agostino,

Paul Fenech

Reggi D’Agostino

Stephen Rizzo

Gaetano Carabott u

Mario Grixti

 

Finally the club won its first honour.  The newly constructed pool , the determination of the new committee and the invigorised players,  the club’s and the supporters’s faith was increasing daily.  The administration of the club was also put in a much more modern and professional setting.

The pool’s construction was basically completed and although minor works were still outstanding, it was officially inaugurated by the Onor Dr. Carmelo Caruana , Minister of Works and Construction on the 10th September, 1967.  For this memorable occasion  there were various distinguished guests, including Bishop Emmanuel Gerada who officiated and blessed the new club.  The club’s opening was also marked by a series of water sport events that remained in everyone’s memory for many years after.

 

After the inauguration of the premises, it was yet to be decided who would run the place.  There was a debate as to whether the new club, a first for Malta, was to be administered by the local waterpolo club, or by the National Sports Board for the fourth district. This issue continued to be debated for the next two years until, after much discussions and correspondence, a decision in favour of the local club was taken and the keys to the club house were officially handed over to the club’s president in 1969.

 

In 1970, the club won its first major honour when it finished first in the second division leage.  The team, under the much popular coach Mr. Joe Cachia Zammit, was composed of the following players, most of whom were introduced in the above mentioned under 16 team of 1967:

 

 

Peter Muscat

Tony Farrugia

Joe Borg

Tarcisio Debono

John Anderton

Stephen Rizzo, u

Reggie D’Agostino.

 

 

 

After 15 years from its inception, Birzebbuga has finally made its mark on local waterpolo, and the occasion was celebrated with a lot of funfare and noise.  With this win, the club was also elevated to the first division where it started to compete in the 1971 season.   Unfortunately this presence only lasted for one year.  The inexperience

of the players as well as the absence of 4 of the players that played in the previous year, made competing at the highest level a very difficult task.

 

During the 1972 season, player in the second division once again, their was a major overhaul of both the team and the committee.  Most of the players that formed part of the team two years ago had retired and the new team was composed mostly of under 18 players who during the year even finished 2nd place in their league.

 

1972 also saw the opening of the club’s bar which itself attracted the public to the club premises and also contributed towards the financial needs of the competitive element within the club.  During the AGM of 1972, Mr. Lino Dalli was elected club president to replace Mr. John Mamo who had served for the previous two years.

 

Under Mr. Dalli’s presidency, the club underwent another major overhaul to its administrative and technical set up.   The first focus was the attraction and retention of good players. Towards this end every effort was made to make the premises as welcoming and comfortable for the players as possible, with new changing , showers and indoor games facilities.

 

The new president also ensure that the club be put in a solid financial status with such activities as tombola and other fund raising activities. The cohesion of the club membership was also given attention with regular social activities, a newsletter and regular circulars to keep the membership informed.  

 

Sponsorship was targeted as a major source of finance and donations of equipment and sport clothing starting coming in.   Advertising was also targeted as a major source of finance.

 

On the technical side, well known local coaches  such as Charlie Mock and Freddie Grixti were engaged to bring the team to the best technical level possible.  These coaches brought with them respect of the players and also a wealth of experience on a level never experienced before by the local club.  The team started to train also in the winter months with technical lectures and gym training whilst water training was reserved for the warmer months.  The team’s confidence and stature increased immensely and for the first time, challenging for the top honours was no longer a dream.

 

The positive results registered by the team was reflected in the increase in membership and supporters that followed the team at every match.  In 1973, under coach Charlie Mock, the club won again the second division championship which meant that 1974 would be spent at first division level.  

 

Although this second attempt at first division waterpolo started on the wrong foot, with time the team gained experience and confidence and by the end of the season had won enough points to avoid relegation.  But due to technical issues, the club had to return to second division play for the next two years.

 

In 1975 the club was host to the ASA International Club Tournament and almost all the local first division games.

 

1976  was to become a glorious year for the club.  Under the new player coach Freddie Grixti, the club won every competition is entered, including second division league championship, second division knock out, first double, under 18 and the reserve leagues.

 

1977 was to be the third attempt of the club at first division waterpolo and this time they competed with gusto.  Not only did the club retain its position at first division level, but actually finished in 4 th place. During the same year it won the clubs tournament organized by Marsaxlokk as part of that club\s 25th anniversary celebrations.

 

The following year, 1978, under the new coach Mr. Joseph Esposito, and with 5 of the players from the previous season, the team opened with some memorable games and ended the first round of the league in third place and thus gained a place, with Sliema and Neptunes, in the International Tournament organized by the ASA in Birzebbuga itself.   The other teams in the tournament were Cosice from Cekoslovakia , JUG from Yugoslavia and Palermo.  The locals did not have much success in this tournament, but definitely gained additional experience at international level to add to that already gained from the various friendlies played against foreign visiting teams.

 

 

In 1979, the club’s directors decided to build a new team from afresh with young under 16 players.  Playing under Coach Charlie Zammit in the first division with such new players was no easy task and the results were much less than expected.  However, the new coach was happy that the level achieved by his players were superior to anything in the second division as was proved during the Marsaxlokk tournament which the club won for the second time.

 

Since these years, the committee started to focus also on other water sports activities and for this it opened its nurseries to many more of the local youths.  Inter leagues for these young players were regularly organized as well as racing competitions at the club itself as well as participation at ASA organized racing meetings.   Although not spectacular, the results achieved at ASA meetings were most encouraging and this drove the club to put these new activities on a more professional basis with lectures and training taking place even in the winter months.

 

Ladies participation was also encouraged with the setting up of the first ladies waterpolo team thattook part in the women league organized by the Ministry of Sports.   The club was also instrumental in the success of this league and various inaugural match  and finals were also played at our pool.

 

 

Another major milestone of the club was on 10th September 1979 when the team, for the first time travelled abroad to play some friendly against Palermo ( won 4-2)  and Catania teams.  Various club officials and supporters accompanied the team, and the experience was most positive all around.

 

Note:

 

This article is a liberal translation from Maltese of the original article that was published in the club’s magazine in 1980 in celebration of its 25th Anniversary.  The writer of this article was Mr. Frank Mifsud who served on the club's commitee for many years in various positions.  We wish to thank him for this invaluable contribution..

 

On 2nd July, 2015 the club will have its 60th Birthday and hopefully commencing its second era in the brand new pool.