A ghost from the past Published on: 08-11-2018

Valletta FC as they lined-up against Austria Memphis on September 19, 1984. Back: John Azzopardi, Ray Mifsud, Frans Grioli, Joe Curmi, David Buckingham, Ġino Hili, Dennis Fenech. Front: eLli Farrugia, Ray Briffa, Nardu Farrugia, Paul Curmi, Leli Seychell.

The 1984 Champions Cup pairing of Valletta FC and Austria Memphis evoked many happy memories of long-past Austro-Maltese encounters.

The ghosts of friendship binding the Christmas tourneys of yesteryear seemed to glide down the paths of memory lane, bringing with them sweet memories from a long-gone era.

Austria Memphis, then known as SK Austria, came to Malta for the 1947 Christmas Tourney.

The Austrians needed no introduction. SK Austria won immortality in the world of football for cradling the famous ‘Wunderteam’.

SK Austria is the oldest and proudest Viennese football club. Before the war the Austrians were mentioned many times as likely visitors to our island, but their visit never materialised. In those days, the club was made up of such great names as Zohrer, Seszta, Arditz, Vierth, Neumer and the incomparable Sindelar popularly known as the ‘Paper man’.

Names known high and wide in all the capitals of the world and on whom Hugo Meisl built his famous ‘Wunderteam’. Many years had passed since the birth of that great team, but the memory remained as vivid as ever.

The 1947 edition of SK Austria was not as well-known as its predecessors, but the name of the club was enough to ignite the enthusiasm of the Maltese.

The thousands who invaded the Stadium every time the visitors played were never disappointed. SK Austria started their tour on Friday, December 26, 1947 with an emphatic 10-0 victory over the Hibs-St George’s combination. The following day they continued where they left off and beat the Valletta-Naxxar combination 12- 1 in what could only be described as a superb football exhibition.

SK Austria went on to beat a Floriana-Sliema XI 4-0 and a Ħamrun-Melita XI 12-0. Two days later, the Combined Services met with the same fate.

After an excellent first half during which they held the visitors 2- 3, the Austrians came into their own and by the end of the game the score had risen to 2-11.

By now, the Maltese were captivated by the Austrians’ dazzling football. The triangular movement, the perfect positional play, the tiptapping of the ball from man to man intermingled with a cute long pass whenever the occasion demanded and the individual brilliance of every member of the team made the whole side irresistible.

Then came the classic game against the MFA XI which ended in a 1-1 draw and in their last match in Malta they defeated the Floriana-Sliema combination once again, this time 4-1.

By the start of the Eighties such encounters had lost all their novelty.

Teams like Austria Wien were no longer considered crowdpullers, but Austria Wien and Rapid Wien were still two of the main pillars of the Austrian game. The clash with Valletta in such a highly-acclaimed competition as the Champions Cup, in the past would have captured the imagination of the Maltese sporting public. Valletta travelled to Vienna and met Austria Wien at the Horr Stadion on September 19, 1984.

The Maltese champions adopted a defensive plan to avoid a repetition of the 10-0 defeat they suffered in Glasgow the previous season.

To a certain extent, this plan worked because, although the Austrians won 4-0, Valletta were not overwhelmed.

Against players of the calibre of Koncilia, Prohaska, Sara, Obermayer, Polster and Wylase, Valletta were forced to defend for long stretches.

Prohaska opened the score in the 20th minute direct from a corner-kick. Polster scored the second goal and one minute before half-time Drobitz met a cross from Durner to score the third. The same player scored the fourth goal a minute after the change of ends.

Scoring chances

Austria Wien repeated the same score at Ta’ Qali but Valletta created a handful of good scoring chances.

Degiorgi opened the score early in the game for Memphis.

However, Valletta held on gallantly and though playing against the wind, they could have equalised when Joe Curmi hit a scorcher. But Koncilla responded with an excellent save.

A few minutes later, it had to be Baumeister who cleared in extremis a Nardu Farrugia effort.

Despite Valletta’s efforts however, the Austrians were still in a class of their own with the elegant Prohaska and the hard-working Baumeister dominating midfield.

In the second period, Valletta failed to keep up the challenge. They faltered, and the Austrians took over. Steinkogli scored the second goal.

Ogris headed in the third and a minute later the same player flicked the ball past Raymond Mifsud for the fourth goal.

It was now all over, and the Austrians coasted home to another comfortable victory. 

Source: times of malta