Malta Football Association
The joy at the end of Austria game was immense – Joe Cini
Dec 30, 2017
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National Team
Joe Cini. Photo: Paul Zammit Cutajar/MFA
Joe Cini. Photo: Paul Zammit Cutajar/MFA

  • Joe Cini. Photo: Paul Zammit Cutajar/MFA

The 60th anniversary of the national team's first official match against Austria was one of the main events on the Maltese football calendar in the outgoing year.


In this interview, which has been published in the Malta FA's official publication commemorating this anniversary, former Malta stalwart Joe Cini shares his memories of that landmark match that saw Malta give Austria a fright with two late goals afte the latter had raced into a three-goal lead.

Joe Cini was the youngest member of the Malta team that conceded a narrow 3-2 defeat to Austria in that historic friendly at the Empire Stadium in 1957.


“It was an era of good football,” the softly-spoken Cini reminisced.


“The preparations were very good, for those times, and everyone had to fight for his place.


“The MFA could have picked two teams and everyone had to work very hard to secure his berth in the team.


“Apart from this, Austria had a very strong team, replete with great and renowned players. If you look at their formation during that time, you would say that the present Austria team doesn’t even compare with that line-up.


“Our preparations were optimal, within our limits. We didn’t train in the morning or afternoon, everyone trained after work, around 5 or 5.30pm.


“The memory is nice. Besides the significance of the occasion, the result was also very good, prestigious…


“Our expectations were not particularly high because, considering our limitations vis-a-vis their quality, and when you compare the two teams, the task was indeed a daunting one.


“Furthermore, we knew Austria very well because, a lot of Austrian teams used to take part in the Christmas Tourney at the time.


“Thus, we had a good idea about the players that were chosen for the national team. For example, we could say that they had Wagner, we had seen them play in Malta, and hence we knew that we were up against giants.


“That said, considering our limitations but with the training we had coupled with our enthusiasm, we pulled in the same direction and played a great game.


“It was such a great match that, if there was more time left, I don’t know if we would have attained a draw as, in the last 10 to 15 minutes, we were all over them (Austria).”




According to newspaper reports, there was a boisterous atmosphere at the Empire Stadium, especially in the closing stages as Malta’s late rally sent the 20,000-crowd into raptures.


“The atmosphere was incredible for two reasons… firstly, the Maltese supporters weren’t expecting the result we achieved and, secondly, after this result, everyone wanted to celebrate with us, so the mood, especially after we got that second goal, through Sammy (Nicholl)… the stadium erupted,” Cini said.


“The joy was immense.”


Cini, who spent the initial years of his career with Floriana, also played outside Maltese shores as he turned out for English club Queens Park Rangers. In 1960, he joined Sliema Wanderers where he ended his career 13 years later.


The Malta-Austria game is one of the highlights of Cini’s career that saw him make a total of 18 appearances for the national team.


“This of 60 years ago is one of them,” Cini said of the best memories from his career.


“Then, when I went to play in England, it was also a great experience. Don’t forget that I had two spells in England, in 1957 and 1959. Besides this, there were many memorable games both for the national team and with Sliema Wanderers, Hibernians and Floriana at club level.”


The kits worn by Cini and co. in the Malta-Austria friendly were borrowed from Vittoriosa Stars but this is unheard of in today’s football.


Looking back on the evolution of football in the last 60 years, Cini said: “For example, as I was walking into the stadium (for the interview), Michael Mifsud said to me: ‘I’m going to wear the tracksuit of the MFA’. I replied: ‘Put it on my friend, we didn’t even have a tracksuit in those days, we didn’t even know what a proper tracksuit looked like when we played against Austria and for many years after that game’."

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