Birkirkara Football Club. Yep, chances are you’ve never heard of them until we were, possibly, drawn to play against them a few weeks ago. Well now, as you’ll know by now, all possibility has been removed as they defeated Armenian’s Ulisses FC 3-1 on Thursday night to set up a tie with West Ham United. Well let’s get an overview on them, shall we?
Organised club football in the town of Birkirkara dates back to 1916 when Salvu Troisi founded Birkirkara United. 34 years later, in November 1950, Birkirkara United merged with Birkirkara Celtic to form today’s current club of Birkirkara FC. The Stripes’ first Maltese Premier League came in the 1999-2000 season, with 3 more following to date.
The Stripes, as they’re affectionately known as in Malta, are no strangers to European competition. They’ve played the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk, Dynamo Moscow and Hadjuk Split in the UEFA Cup. What’s more is that this isn’t the first time they’ve progressed to the next stage in Europe; beating Georgian outfit Lokomotivi Tbilisi in 2001 and Andorran’s FC Santa Coloma in the 2010-11 edition of the Champions League. Drawing against the likes of NK Maribor and Dynamo Moscow as well is a pretty impressive feat considering the gulf in size and class between Birkirkara and their Eastern European opponents. Let’s hope we aren’t their latest European scalp.
Players to watch out for
Fabrizio Miccoli – Without doubt the biggest name in their squad, if not ever. The former Juventus, Benfica and Fiorentina man scored and set up a goal on his debut to help Birkirkara see off Armenians Ulisses.
Gareth Sciberras – The captain. Sciberras has represented Malta at various youth levels and won 34 caps for the Maltese national team. Has won the Maltese Premier League with both Marsaxlokk and Birkirkana.
Ryan Camenzuli – The 20 year old has spent his entire career with the Stripes, playing 94 times and scoring 11 goals from midfielder. He has been at Birkirkana since the age of seven. Has won one Maltese cap already in his career.
Joseph Zerafa – No stranger to English football, the left back has been on the books of non-league teams Grays Athletic and Welling United. Has made 214 appearances for Birkirkara.
Quick fire facts
West Ham United will be the first English team that Birkirkara have ever faced.
In January 2007 Italian giants AC Milan played Birkirkara in a friendly, defeating them 5-0 at the Ta’ Qali national stadium.
Birkirkara is one of only six clubs that have managed to win all the major honours in Maltese football.
Their under-15 side are currently the Maltese champions for that age group.
Likewise, Birkirkara will be the first Maltese side that West Ham United have played.