JOSIE URPANI

Josie Urpani represented all that is good in football. He was a skilful, intelligent, a prolific goal-scorer and, above all, a loyal and honest footballer. Being an amateur player, least insofar as I could ascertain, Urpani could have played for any club of his choosing but he always remained loyal to Valletta.

Urpani was born in St Julian's on October 12, 1936 and he started his football education with Floriana Colts when he was still very young. When he was still a student at Stella Maris College, he signed amateur forms for Mosta Athletic.

Mosta did not realise what a treasure they had, otherwise they would not have let him go. In 1953-54, he joined Valletta Minors.

Josie made his first team debut for the Citizens on November 28, 1954 against Birkirkara, a game that the 'Lilywhites' won 2-0. In that game he showed potential way beyond his young age. That season he only played seven times for the first team over time he took over the role of shcemer -in-chief of the team.

In those days, the game in Malta was dominated to a certain extent by the old-firm partners Floriana FC and Sliema Wanderers. Yet, clubs like Valletta, Hibernians and Hamrun Spartans were always a good bert to give the leading clubs a good run for thir money.

By, 1954 Valletta were building a team worthy of their traditions. The team was still being formed but in 1957 they reached the FA Trophy Final. This was Josie's first appearance in the final but unfortunately for him and the whole City clan, Valletta were beaten 2-0 by the 'old enemy'.

This disappointment, however, did not deter the team, which continued to develop into a formidable combination. With such fine players as Joe Cilia, Frankie Zammit, Wanese Borg, Tommy Taylor, Ginger Joe Zammit, Edwin Schembri and, of course, Josie Urpani, the team was bound to go places.

In 1958-59 the Citizens finally won the League Championship. Urpani played in all the matches, scoring eight goals in the bargain. A fine inside-foward, he thrilled the stadium crowds with his intelligent play and his knack of scoring vital goals. In the FA Trophy , he scored two of Valletta's five goals against Marsa in the quarter-finals but then sustained an injury that kept him out of the game for the rest of the season.

In 1959-60 Valletta retained the championship. Once again Urpani was one of the mainstays of that fine City team. Valletta went on to beat their old rivals Floriana 3-0 in the FA Trophy final. Josie, however, did not play in the final. He was injured in the quarter-final tie against Hibernians and had to watch his teams' celebrations from the terraces.

In 1962-63 Urpani won his third championship medal, capping a fine season with eight goals. The following season he was once again on target. He scored 10 goals to finish in secound place in the top-scorers' chart, one goal fewer than team-mate Wanese Borg.

1962-63 was a memorable season for the City stalwart. He led the team to a 1-0 victory over Sliema Wanderers in the FA Trophy final. It was the only time he won the FA Trophy and he celebrated the occasion by scoring the all-important goal.

What made Josie Urpani such an outstanding footballer was his superb ball-control and his remarkable quickness of thought. He was an expert at 'running off the ball' and moving to the right position to receive the inevitable through pass. His passing was accurate and his ability to pinpoint a pass to an unmarked colleague produced many vital goals for his team.

In 1963-64 he scored 10 league goals for Valletta but by now time was catching up wit him. In the following season he only managed four league appearances and although he was still a popular choice, his best days were over. In 1967-68 he wore the City jersey only five times and at the end of the season he retired, leaving a void that took the Citizens many years to fill successfully.

(Taken from: Maltese Footballers Hundred of the Best by Carmel Baldacchino)