Malta Football Association
VIDEO: Debattista, Nicholl reminisce over historic 1957 game
Apr 21, 2017
Posted in:
National Team
Angelo Chetcuti, MFA General Secretary, with Sammy Nicholl.
Angelo Chetcuti, MFA General Secretary, with Sammy Nicholl.

  • Angelo Chetcuti, MFA General Secretary, with Sammy Nicholl.
  • Matthew Paris, the MFA Vice-President, with Lolly Debattista.

Memories came flooding back as Lolly Debattista and Sammy Nicholl, two local football stalwarts who were part of the Malta team for the friendly match against Austria 60 years ago, remembered that landmark occasion which is enshrined in the history of Maltese football.


Debattista and Nicholl were visibly delighted as they were presented with an array of gifts to mark the 60th anniversary of Malta’s first official international match against Austria, played at the Empire Stadium on February 24, 1957.


Dr Matthew Paris, the Malta FA vice-president, and Kevin Azzopardi, the Association’s Director of Communications, met Debattista at the home for the elderly in Floriana while Nicholl visited the Malta FA offices at the National Stadium where he was greeted by Dr Angelo Chetcuti, the MFA General Secretary.

As the two octogenarians recounted anecdotes from that 1957 game, both were unified in their conviction that Malta would have equalised after rattling Austria, who were leading 3-0 with only three minutes left, with a late two-goal salvo, but ran out of time.


“I remember their centre-half... they panicked and, if there was more time left, we would have equalised,” Debattista recalled. “And Austria had a very strong team at the time.”


For his part, Nicholl, who set up Malta’s first goal, scored by Tony Cauchi, and struck the second on the stroke of time, recounted how he had to trim his playing shirt as it was too long. The national team’s playing kits for that match were borrowed from Vittoriosa Stars.


“They ended up getting the scissors to trim the shirt as it was too long,” Nicholl reminisced. “And, as you’d expect from us Maltese, amid all the jokes and laughter, they cut it too short.”


As part of the events commemorating 60 years of international football, the Malta FA hosted a reception on February 24, the day of the anniversary, but Debattista and Nicholl were unable to attend.


The other surviving members of that 1957 team, Lolly Borg, Tony Cauchi, Joe Cilia, Joe Cini, Victor Scerri and Nazzareno Alamango – the latter part of the squad called up by then national coach Joe Griffiths to train ahead of the match, were present for the event and received their mementoes from Malta FA President Norman Darmanin Demajo.


The gifts included a silver frame with a coloured photo of the Malta team from that 1957 game, a bottle of wine from a limited edition of 60, a personalised Malta shirt, and an exact replica of the original match programme.


60 years of international football is also the principal theme of this year’s MFA Awards, to be held on May 14 at the Mediterranean Conference Centre.

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