A SUMMARISED HISTORY OF BALZAN FOOTBALL CLUB
Football was introduced in Malta by the British through the strong influence of the British Forces at the beginning of the 19th Century. In 1900 the Malta Football Association was founded and the first Championship League was organised later, for the 1909-1910 football season. It was in 1937, in the small village of Balzan a group of football enthusiasts got together and founded the Balzan Youths Football Club. Sadly, despite being one of the oldest football clubs in Malta, very little information on its beginnings has survived since the club’s records were either lost or destroyed. It has only been for the past 30 years that its history has been preserved. Balzan Youths FC may not boast of great successes, yet through the years several good players have emerged from this club all of whom have played with Top Division clubs. Notable names include Gulino Muscat, France Suda, Paul Chetcuti, Nenu Nappa, brothers Paul and Lonzu Pullicino, Alfred Cardona, brothers Peter and Tony Fitzgerald, Mario Monreal, among others. Since its foundation, Balzan Youths FC has always proved to be a competitive team. However for a small village club, with rather limited resources, it is not easy to establish itself with the top clubs. As a result, it has remained in the lower ranks. In the seasons spanning 1946-1947, 1955-1956 and 1957-1958 the team came very close to being promoted to the top Division. During these seasons they succeeded to win the section they were playing in the Second Division but failed to go on to win the decider, as at that time only one team was promoted to the First Division. Balzan Youths FC several times came close but did not quite achieve this goal. 1951-1952 1955-1956 1957-1958 1982-1983 Through the years Balzan Youths FC was relegated to the lower divisions. For the first few years, they competed at Second Division level but when the Malta Football Association changed the composition of the Leagues and included the Premier Division as the top League, the club competed mostly at Third Division level. The club waited until 53 years after its foundation before it tasted the joy of success. In Season 1990-1991, the club’s first team were promoted to the Second Division. It has to be noted that this happened due to a decision taken by the MFA to relegate Naxxar Lions FC from the Premier League to the Third Division. This opened a vacant post in the Premier League and consequently also in the First and Second Divisions. As runners up of the Third Division Section “B”, Balzan Youths FC had to play a deciding game against Melita FC, the runners up of Section “A”. Balzan Youths FC emerged winners from this game and was consequently promoted. This was the first time ever in the club’s history that called for celebrations.
During this Season the Committee began to realise that it could not continue to concentrate solely on its first team but required promising young players to be trained for future teams. With this in mind, they proposed starting their own Football Nursery. At that time although the Nursery was not yet formalised the committee decided nevertheless to participate in the Under 16 League of the Youth Football Association by registering a group of young players from 14 to 16 years of age. In Season 1991-1992 the committee continued to work on its plans to organise a Football Nursery with the intention of training players at a young age who would go on to play for the club in future senior leagues. While in the Second Division Balzan Youths FC always played at a competitive standard and finished in a respectable place in the final classification. In Season 1995-1996, five years after being promoted to the Second Division, the Balzan Youths FC team was relegated to play in the Third Division again. This was a turning point for the committee of that time. They took the opportunity to start utilising the talent from their football nursery and began introducing young players in the field of play together with established players. In Season 1999-2000, after four seasons in the Third Division and 62 years on from its foundation, the dream of many came true. Balzan Youths FC won the Third Division League, this time as Champions. This win coincided with the beginning of the new millennium and in the first season that the Third Division League was played in the newly inaugurated Centenary Stadium. This called for big celebrations and the entire village of Balzan participated. Everybody’s contribution to the Club’s success has to be recognised, above all the players themselves, as well as the organisation and dedication of all the committee members and not least the supporters.
In Season 2000-2001, after only one year in the Second Division, Balzan Youths FC added to their pride the first ever promotion to the First Division, after finishing as runners-up in the final classification of the Second Division. This season was truly an exceptional one. Apart from their promotion to the First Division, Balzan Youths FC won all the other competitions their teams participated in.
The Reserves team finished as Champions of the Second Division; the Minors team finished as Champions of Minors Section “C” and consequently got promoted to Minors Section “B”. The Balzan Youths Nursery also had its successes with both their teams winning the Championships for the U/14 and U/16 Leagues of the Youth Football Association. This was once again a call for celebration carried out with greater pomposity, where both village bands took part, where all the villagers and other guests joined in. Season 2001-2002 was the club’s first experience competing in the First Division. Everybody worked hard and the players had to play against much more seasoned players but they carried themselves well and placed fourth in the final classification. The other teams of the club did equally well. The Reserves team and the Minors team both finished as Champions. Despite the disappointment that the Reserves League has been dropped by the Malta Football Association for next season, the Minors were to participate in the Section “A” Minors League competing with teams from the more elite clubs. In Season 2002-2003 Balzan Youths FC reached the climax as, for the first time ever, they were promoted to play in the Top League. After two years in the First Division our team finished as Runners up, three points behind the Champions – Msida S J FC.
The Minors team playing for the first time in Section “A”, against the top clubs, passed from different circumstances. This season was a disappointing one. Here we encountered difficulty because most of the last season players were no longer eligible to play and we had to make use of the U/16 players. Nevertheless, the team managed to finish in 8th place and avoided relegation. Season 2003-2004 playing in the Premier League, against the elite clubs, was a remarkable experience. We won 5 games (against Hamrun S FC, Valletta FC, Hibernians FC, Pieta H FC and Msida SJ FC), drew 3 games (against Msida SJ FC, Floriana FC and Hamrun S FC) and lost the rest. We finished the first phase in 7th place and had to play in the relegation pool together with Valletta FC, Hamrun S FC and Msida SJ. FC. We had to wait until our last game against Msida SJ FC to know our destiny. We lost this decisive game and consequently were relegated, together with Hamrun S FC, to play in the First Division. In the preliminary round of the Trophy we managed to pass to the next phase by first beating First Division side Rabat A FC but then had to bow our head by losing to Floriana FC.
The Minors team played in Section “A” and managed to finish in 5th place. Season 2004-2005, playing in the First Division, was a disastrous one. The team could not gear up and we lost one game after another. In the second round, the committee had to do something to try and save the day and a decision was taken to replace the coach but it was too late. Our destiny was to play in the Second Division and it so happened. In the preliminary round of FA Trophy, we were drawn to play against Valletta FC. We were no match to them and so we lost this game. As for the Minors team, playing in Section “A”, again we encountered another setback because of the introduction of a new MFA rule, where only players U/18 were eligible to play in Section “A”. Nevertheless we managed to finish the season in the 8th place and evaded relegation once again. Season 2005-2006 playing in the Second Division was yet another season to forget. In the first round we played well but in the second round, something happened. We lost six games in a row and found ourselves in the danger zone. We were relieved as we won the last three games and in the end, we finished in 5th place. In the II/III Division KO Competition, we managed to pass to the second phase by beating Zejtun C. FC and drew against Birzebbuga SP FC. In the second phase, we faced Gzira U FC in a KO game where we lost on penalties, after finishing in a draw on extra time. This season the Minors team suffered a lot of setbacks as their coaching changed hands on three occasions. With all the limitations the team tried very hard to keep up with the elite teams but this time they failed and the team finished in the last place. Consequently next season they were to play in Section “B”. Season 2006-2007 was a quiet one. After a good start, we finished the first round in 3rd place. In the second round, we did not manage to keep the pace and at the end of the season, we finished in 5th place. As for the II/III Division KO Competition, we had a great experience by winning this trophy for the first time. After we emerged winners of the preliminary group we went on winning the semi-final and passed on to the final. We won this final, held at the National Stadium, by beating Birzebbuga SP FC. The Minors team had a good season when they finished in 3rd place of Section “B”. We started Season 2007-2008 on a negative tone where we drew the first game and lost the next two games. From there on we laid our hands on and managed to finish the season in the first place, jointly with San Gwann FC and Rabat A FC. According to the MFA Rules “When three teams finish with equal points the direct encounters are to be taken into consideration. The team with the maximum points will then be declared as Champion and the other two teams have to play a decider in order to declare the second team to be promoted”. Consequently, San Gwann FC’s team was declared as Champions and we had to play a deciding game against Rabat A FC. To our disappointment, we failed to win this decider and so missed our chance to be promoted to the First Division. The same happened in the quick Keno II/III Division KO Competition where we also failed. For the second time in a row, we made our way to the final of this Trophy. This decisive game was scheduled to be played a few days after we had the League decider. Still demoralised, after losing this decider against Rabat A FC, we were humiliated by Melita FC who went on to easily win this Trophy. The Minors team on the other hand had a very good season where they finished the season as Champions of Section “B” and thus promoted to play in Section “A” the next season. Season 2008-2009 started immediately after we lost last year’s decider with Rabat A FC. It was not easy to restart a new season after this huge setback and disappointment. A number of new players were brought in. These included player-coach Ivan Zammit, who was given the task to lead this new group of players to reach the club’s ultimate objective -the promotion to the First Division. The kick-off for this season started with three games from the II & III Division Knock-out Competition and it was evident that our team had the potential of being one of the challengers for promotion. In the Second Division League from 22 matches played we won 18 and drew 3, twice against Melita and the other against St Andrews and lost just one game which happened to be against Lija Athletics. We maintained the first position for nearly all the campaign and our strong defence managed to retain a clean sheet for the first nine league matches and just conceding nine goals throughout the league. After the first round, we were already runaway leaders enjoying a four-point advantage on Melita and ten on Lija Athletics. We have seen a number of hard-fought matches such as those against Melita were in all three matches Balzan Youths had a player sent off. It was a pity that our team got out of the II & III Division Knock-out Competition against this team as we had a good game against them. It was evident that Balzan Youths was the best team in the Second Division and deserved to finish as Champions. They finished the League campaign on a record of 57 points, leading Melita FC on 7 points and 9 on third-placed Lija Athletics FC. All Balzan Youths FC fans should be proud with this year’s achievement as our team made history winning the Second Division for the first time in our club’s history. Celebrations to mark this occasion were held on Sunday 10th May 2009, immediately after the last match of the season against Mgarr United FC.
The Minors team on the other hand didn’t have a good season, despite giving a good performance, as they were relegated to play in Section ‘B’ next season. They played against tough opponents, having players playing in the Premier League. Season 2009-2010, started with the First Division Knock-Out competition where our team failed to pass to the semi-finals, as they finished in 2nd place of the preliminary round, winning 2 games, finishing draw in 1 game and lost the last game. Playing again in the First Division, was an interesting one where we finished in 3rd place of the final classification. All the way though the season we were in a struggle for promotion against another two teams Marsaxlokk FC and Vittoriosa Stars FC, who ironically started the season in the Premier Division and were relegated to First Division before the League started. We did not make it, as we failed to win the last direct encounter against Vittoriosa Stars FC. In all, we won 9 games, finished draw in 4 games and lost 5 games. Our player Simon Shead finished as top scorer of the First Division. In the U*Bet FA Trophy where we managed to reach the quarter-finals beating two Premier League teams – Msida Saint Joseph FC and Dingli Swallows FC. In the quarter-finals, we lost against another Premier League team -Tarxien Rainbows FC. In the National League 100th Anniversary Cup where we won a game in the 3rd round against a Third Division team – Qrendi FC but then went to lose a game in the 4th round against a Premier League team – Tarxien Rainbows FC. The Minors team had a reasonably good season in the Minors League Section “B” where they finished in 5th place. In the Minors “B” Knock-out Competition they managed to reach the semi-finals but lost the game. In Season 2010-2011, the first team of Balzan Youths FC reached the climax for the second time in their history, as they got promoted once again to play in the Premier League. After two years in the First Division, the team finished, for the first time ever, as “Champions” of the First Division League, with twelve points in front of 2nd placed Mqabba FC.
In the “First Division Knock-Out Competition” Balzan Youths FC first team finished second place of Group “A” in the preliminary round and passed to play the Semi-final against first placed in Group “B” Mqabba FC. After beating Mqabba FC in the semi-final, the team lost the Final against Dingli Swallows and consequently finished as Runners-up of this Competition. In the “U*Bet FA Trophy” the team lost the preliminary game against Premier League team -Tarxien Rainbows FC. The Minors team had a reasonably good season in the Minors League – Section “B” but failed to get promoted to Section “A”, as they finished in 3rd place four points behind second-placed Qormi. In the Minors “B” Knock-out Competition they lost the only game they played against Rabat Ajax FC. During Season 2011-2012, the Balzan Youths team was remarkable, playing in the Premier League for the second time in History. They ended playing in the Championship Pool against the top five Maltese clubs and finished in 6th place of the Premier League Final Classification. This is another milestone as, for the first time in history, Balzan Youths FC managed to retain their Premier League status for the second season in succession. The Minors team had a reasonably good season in the Minors League – Section “B” but failed to get promoted to Section “A”, as they finished in 5th place, only four points behind the leaders. In the Minors “B” Knock-out Competition they managed to beat the first two placed teams in the League and went on all the way to win this Trophy. During the club’s Annual General Meeting – 2011-2012, held on Wednesday 13th June 2012, the members decided to change the name of the club from Balzan Youths Football Club to BALZAN FOOTBALL CLUB. During this meeting, the members approved the merger of the First Division futsal team Excess RP Bidnija with Balzan FC. Next season this futsal team will be taking part, as Balzan FC Futsal team, in the first Premier Futsal League to be organised by the Futsal Malta Association In Season 2012-2013, the first team of Balzan FC, playing in the Premier League, ended playing in the Relegation Pool after finishing in the 8th place in the first round and finished in the 9th place of the Final Classification. In the U*Bet FA Trophy they managed to reach the quarter-finals beating two First Division League teams – Naxxar Lions FC and Gzira United FC. In the quarter-finals, we lost against another Premier League team -Qormi FC. The Minors team had a modest season in the Minors League – Section “B” where they finished in 6th place and retained the Section “B” status. In the Youths Knock-out Competition, they managed to beat Gharghur U FC but failed to beat Marsaxlokk FC. In Season 2013-2014, the Balzan team had another remarkable season when, after finishing in 6th place in the first round, they ended playing in the Championship Pool against the top five Maltese clubs and finally finishing in 6th place in the Final Classification. In the U*Bet FA Trophy after beating First Division League team Birzebbuga SP FC they lost against Premier League team Sliema W FC. The Minors team had another modest season in the Minors League – Section “B” where they finished again in 6th place and retained the Section “B” status. In the Youths Knock-out Competition they lost the only game they played against Sliema Wanderers FC. In Season 2014-2015, the Balzan FC team had another remarkable season when, after finishing 4th place, in the Final Classification of the Premier League, the team made history by qualifying to play in the Preliminary Round of the UEFA Europa League 2015/2016 for the very first time. In the preliminary round of the Europa League, they played against the much-renowned team of FK Zejleznicar of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Even though Balzan FC lost 0-2 in the first leg at home and 0-1 in Sarajevo – Bosnia & Herzegovina, the team performance was remarkable. In the Attian FA Trophy, after beating Third Division League team Kirkop United FC passed on to beat First Division side Zabbar St. Patrick FC. In the quarter-final, they lost against Premier League Champions – Hibernians FC on penalties, after holding them to a draw until the end of the extra time. The Minors team had a very good season in the Minors League – Section “B” where they finished as Champions. Next season they are going to play against the elite teams in Section “A”. In the Youth Knock-out Competition after having a walkover to Senglea Athletics FC, they lost the only game they played against the Champions – Hibernians FC. In Season 2015-2016, the Balzan FC team had another good season finishing again in 4th place, in the Final Classification of the Premier League. The team also finished as a finalist in the FA Trophy for the first time in history, losing the final on penalties to Sliema W FC. The team qualified to play in the Preliminary round of UEFA Europa League 2016/2017 for the second consecutive time. They played against the much renowned team of Neftchi PFK of Baku Azerbaijan. The team performance was remarkable as although they lost 0-2 in the first leg at home, they went on to win the second leg in Baku Azerbaijan 2–1. Consequently, they failed to qualify to the second round on goal difference, with an aggregate of 2-3. The Minors team playing in the Minors League – Section “A” had a very good season finishing in the second place. In the Youth Knock-out Competition after winning against Sirens FC and Lija Athletics FC, they lost the in the quarter finals against Floriana FC on penalties, after the game finished 1-1 on extra time. In Season 2016-2017, Balzan FC team improved over last season finishing 2nd place, in the Final Classification of the Domestic Premier League. In the FA Trophy Balzan FC was eliminated in the fourth round by Tarxien Rainbows FC, losing against them in the extra time after finishing the game in a draw during normal time. The team qualified to play in the Preliminary round of UEFA Europa League 2017/2018 for the third consecutive time. They played against the much renowned team of Videoton FC of Hungary. The team performance was remarkable during this campaign and although they lost 0-2 in the first leg at the “Pancho Arena” in Felcsut-Hungary, they finished the return leg in Malta, at the Hibernians Stadium, in a draw of 3-3. Consequently failing to qualify to the second round, losing with an aggregate of 3-5. The Minors team playing in the Minors League – Section “A” had a reasonable good season even though finishing in the fifth place of the classification. In the Youth Knock-out Competition after winning their first game against St Andrews FC, they were eliminated by Hibernians FC after losing to them in the quarter-finals. At the end of Season 2017-2018, Balzan FC finished again in 2nd place, in the Final Classification of the National Premier League. In the Domestic FA Trophy, Balzan FC won games against Gudja United FC, Naxxar Lions FC and Lija Athletic FC but finished losing to the winners Valletta FC in the quarter-finals. Due to the position obtained in the National Premier League, Balzan qualified to play in the Qualifying Round 1 of UEFA Europa League 2018/2019. They played their first leg against Kesla FK of Baku Azerbaijan at the Centenary Stadium, Ta’ Qali in Malta. During this match, the Balzan team’s performance was remarkable as they won with a convincing result of 4 – 1. Although they lost the return match 1 – 2 to Kesla FK at the Dagla Arena in Baku, Azerbaijan, Balzan qualified to play in the Qualifying Round 2 with an aggregate of 5 – 3. The Qualifying Round 2 of UEFA Europa League 2018/2019 games were tougher, playing against a more renowned team of FK Slovan of Bratislava, Slovakia. Balzan played their first leg against FK Slovan at the Centenary Stadium, Ta’ Qali in Malta. To the surprise of all, Balzan FC managed to win their home game 2 – 1. Unfortunately, Balzan lost their second leg to FK Slovan 1 – 3 at the Štadión Pasienki in Bratislava, Slovakia, finishing with an aggregate of 2 – 3. Thus failing to qualify to play in the Qualifying Round 3 of UEFA Europa League 2018/2019. During this season the Balzan FC Youth team played in the Youth League – Section “A” and had a fair season finishing in seventh place of the classification. In the Youth Knock-out Competition Balzan FC, after winning their first game against Pieta Hotspurs FC, were eliminated by San Gwann FC, losing to them in the third round. Season 2018-2019 was a memorable season for Balzan FC as they got their first major honour to Balzan. In the Domestic Premier League, Balzan FC failed to live to their expectations as they did not have a good run, finishing their campaign in the 6th place of the Final Classification. However, Balzan FC had a fantastic experience in the Domestic FA Trophy as they won this honour for the first time ever. To get to this first major honour they won games against Qrendi FC, Xewkija Tigers FC, Tarxien Rainbows FC, Birkirkara FC and finally they won the Final against the Premier League champions Valletta FC. Due to winning the FA Trophy , Balzan qualified to play in the Qualifying Round 1 of UEFA Europa League 2019/2020. They played their first leg against NK Domžale of Slovenia at the Centenary Stadium in Ta’ Qali, Malta and lost with the result of 3-4. Then they went to Slovenia and lost the return match 0-1 at the Domžale Stadium. Thus failing to qualify to play in the Qualifying Round 2 of UEFA Europa League 2019/2020, with an aggregate of 3 – 5. During this season the Balzan FC youth team played in the Youth League – Section “A” and had a fair season finishing in sixth place of the classification. In the Youth Knock-out Competition Balzan FC youth team was eliminated after losing their one and only game against St Andrews FC.
Season 2019-2020 was an extraordinary one as, due to an outbreak of COVID19 pandemic, all football competitions were suspended on 12th March 2020 and the Domestic Premier League was prematurely terminated on 18th May 2020. Since there were no rules to carter for such a situation, during an MFA Council Meeting it was decided to take into consideration the team standings as on the date of suspension of the competitions. At this point, Balzan FC was in 7th place. This decision resulted in Floriana FC being declared as Champions and Valletta FC, Hibernians FC and Sirens FC were awarded the three UEFA Europa League spots on sporting merits. Furthermore, no relegations were to take place and two teams were promoted to the Premier League from the Challenge League. Consequently next season the Premier League will be formed by 16 teams. For the same reason the Domestic FA Trophy was declared null and no team was declared to have won this competition. Since all Youth Leagues were also declared null, no team of the Youth League – Section “A” was declared to have won this competition and the Youth Knock-out Competition was not held.
As the COVID19 pandemic persisted, the Health Authorities permitted football Season 2020-2021 to commence on 11th September 2020. However, as the COVID 19 pandemic progressed, on 11th March 2021 the Health Authorities imposed the suspension of all football activities and on 9th April 2021, the MFA Executive Committee decided to abandon all the Domestic Leagues.
This time, according to the newly introduced “Force Majeure Rule” and after taking into consideration the team standings as on the date of suspension of the competitions Hamrun S FC was automatically declared as Champions of the Domestic Premier League.
However, due to a UEFA decision, Hamrun S FC was not permitted to participate in UEFA Competitions and consequently Hibernians FC (who finished in second place) took their place to participate in the UEFA Champions League and Gzira U FC, Birkirkara FC and Mosta FC qualified to play in the UEFA Conference League. When the Premier League was abandoned, Balzan FC was in 10th place of the classification. Furthermore, Senglea A FC, Lija A FC, Tarxien R FC and Zejtun C FC were relegated to the Challenge League and no team from the Challenge League were promoted to the Premier League. Consequently next season the Premier League will be formed by 12 teams.
For the same reason the Domestic FA Trophy was declared null and no team was declared to have won this competition. Since all Youth Leagues were also declared null, no team of the Youth League – Section “A” was declared to have won this competition and the Youth Knock-out Competition was not held.