THE MODERN ERA 1997 – 2006

The Modern Era

This decade will be rembered for many years to come by Xewkija supporters, as in 2001 the Tigers clinched their fourth title in their history after a long 17-year wait. It was a decade in which Xewkija maintained a high level throughout, as they were up there amongst the elite in every season.

1996 -1997

The success obtained in the previous season, and due to the new league format (Premier League, First Division, Second Division), meant that Xewkija Tigers would play their football in the newly founded First Division.

 1996-1997
Standing: (from left) Ino Busuttil (coach), John Hili, Charlton Xerri, Diato Spiteri, Franco Azzopardi, Chris Okoh, Marcell Bonnici, Donald Pace, Jevon Attard, Shaun Debono, Richard Haber, Charlie Farrugia (massuer)Sitting:Marlon Le Prevost, Robert Said, Paul Hili, Jeffrey Farrugia, Charlie Azzopardi, Jeffrey Bonnici, Jesmond Xuereb, Ino Mifsud

Photo by: John Spiteri

To make a fast return to the top division, the Xewkija Committee thought best to add one of the best foreigners who had ever played in Gozo.  Chris Okoh, in fact was not only an inspiration to the rest of the team, but with his presence Xewkija Tigers won the First Division title and the K.O. Competion.

1997 – 1998
After a two year absence, Xewkija Tigers made it to the top division once again.  The squad was mainly made of the same players who had previously played in the lower divisions.  The Committe added 3 new foreigners to the team in a bid to maintain their status.

 1997-1998
Back: (from left) Mahjoub Taoli, Philip Zammit, Shaun Debono, Joseph Attard, Charlton Xerri, Richard Haber, Franco Azzopardi
 Middle: Charlie Farrugia (committee), Jesmond Xuereb, Charlie Azzopardi, Raymond Vella, David Camilleri, Marcell Bonnici, Salvu Cilia (coach), Paul Cilia (committee)
Sitting: Louis Mizzi (committee), Jeffrey Farrugia, Bede Onyha, Simon Cassar, Ino Mifsud, John Hili, Simon Dingli (masseur)
 
Photo by: John Spiteri

Xewkija Tigers finished fourth and in the Promotion/Relegation Decider against Kercem Ajax (who finished second in the First Division) influential defender Raymond Vella (ex-Malta International) inspired the rest of the team to a well-deserved safety.

 

1998 – 1999
The 1998-99 season was a dissapointing year for the fans when one takes into consideration the kind of transfers in order to win the league title.  In fact to the already strong squad the likes of Sabri Rais, Chris Debrincat, Raymond Gafa’ and Tarik Belhai were signed.

 1998-1999
Back: (from left) Simon Dingli (massuer), Paul Axiaq, Mark Camilleri, Tarik Belhaj, Franco Azzopardi, Noel Muscat, Patrick Vassallo (trainer), Chris Debrincat, Raymond Vella (coach), Raymond Gafa
Sitting: Paul Cilia (committee), Josef Xerri, Mahjoub Taoli, Charlie Azzopardi, Ino Mifsud, Jeffrey Farrugia, Sabri Rais, Paul Hili, Charlie Farrugia (committee), Richard Haber, Marlon Le Prevost

Photo by:
John Spiteri

Xewkija ended their season in fourth place and had to once again play the Promotion/Relegation Decided and just like the previous season their opponents were Kercem Ajax.  The end result was similar, with Xewkija winning the match and maintaining their top flight status.

During the 1998-99 season though, Xewkija did managed to add some silverware to their cabinets, by winning the Helsien Cup against Ghajnsielem.

 

1999 – 2000

The G.F.A. restored the previous league settings with only 2 divisions, but Xewkija stayed in anonimanity with a mere 5th place and 17 points.

 1999-2000
Xewkija Tigers FC Committee and Players in pose prior the Republic Cup Final against Nadur

Photo by: John Spiteri

To cheer up the fans though were the G.F.A. Cup against Sannat Lions and the Republic Cup against Nadur Youngsters.

 

2000 – 2001

The ‘season of seasons’ according to many fans.  In fact Xewkija Tigers managed to recover an 8 point deficit from Nadur in the final 5 games of the season and then win the Championship Decider against the same Youngsters in a 7 goal thriller (4-3).

2000-2001 1
Back: (from left) Marcell Bonnici (assistant coach), Jevon Attard (committee), Carmel Camilleri (president), Paul  Vella, Shaun Debono, George Rapa (masseur), David Camilleri, Joseph Attard, Richard Haber, Jesmond Xuereb, Mark Camilleri, Tarik Belhai, Mike Hili, Salvu Cilia (coach), Warren Dingli (committee)
Sitting: John Sciberras (committee), Christian Bueja, Ino Mifsud, Paul Axiaq, Chris Camilleri, Josef Xerri, Sabri Rais, Charlie Azzopardi, Joe Azzopardi, Domenic Cilia
Missing: Lawrence Attard

Photo by: John Spiteri
No one ever believed that such feit was possible, but coach Salvu Cilia together with his squad (most of whom youngsters who made their debut way back in 1996) thought otherwise and brought the League Championship back to Xewkija after 17 years.

2000-2001 2 2000-2001 3
Players celebrating the title. Supporters celebrating in the village streets

The Tigers also managed to win the Independence Cup against the same Nadur by 2-1.

2000-2001 4 2000-2001 5
Players receving league medals Captain Azzopardi receiving G.F.A. First Division Cup

 

2001 – 2002

Xewkija didn’t manage to repeat the success obtained in the previous campaign but they did however manage a second place and a G.F.A. Cup success against Nadur Youngsters (2-1).

 2001-2002
Standing: (from left) Shaun Debono, Richard Haber, Benneth Njoku, Robert Said, Patrick Vassallo (coach), Josef Xerri, Chris Camilleri, Pierre Azzopardi (masseur), Lawrence Attard, Marcell Bonnici (assistant coach)
Sitting: Paul Axiaq, Marlon Le Prevost, Jeffrey Farrugia, Charlie Azzopardi, Christian Bugeja, Sabri Rais, Paul Vella, Ino Mifsud, Philip Zammit
Photo by: John Spiteri
Coach Salvu Cilia was replaced by Maltese coach Patrick Vassallo and the latter decided to add the likes of Benneth Njoku and ex-Malta star Martin Gregory to the already strong side.

 

2002 – 2003
This was one of the season in which Xewkija Tigers did not manage to win some silverware finishing in an anonymous mid-table position clear of the relegation battle but far away from the title chase.

 2002-2003
Standing: Patrick Vassallo (coach), Eric Saliba, Joseph Grima, Sabri Rasi, Mark Camilerri, Joseph Attard, Gotthard Conti, Jeffrey Farrugia, Shaun Debono, Michael Pace, Marcell Bonnici (assistant coach), Carmel Camilleri (president)
Sitting: Pierre Azzopardi (masseur), Joseph Cefai, Ino Mifsud, Domenic Cilia, Christian Bugeja, Jason Portelli, Jonathan Buhagiar, Paul Vella, Josef Xerri

Photo by: John Spiteri

2003 – 2004

The start of the 2003-04 season was a very encouraging one for the Yellows who managed to win the Independence Cup against Sannat Lions by 3-1.  But as the season progressed, results didn’t arrive and the Tigers finished their season 6th on level points with Kercem Ajax and Sannat Lions forcing all clubs to a historic 3-team Relegation Championship.

 2003-2004
Standing: (from left) Patrick Vassallo (coach), Charlon Cutajar (masseur), Daniel Bugeja, Shaun Debono, Franco Azzopardi, Benneth Njoku, Joseph Attard, Philip Xerri, Marlon Le Prevost, Ino Mifsud, Darren Pace, Martin Cremona, Domenic Cilia, Kevin Manpalao (committee)
Sitting: Saviour Farrugia, Marcell Bonnici (assistant coach), Andrew Said, Christian Bugeja, Sabri Rais, Jeffrey Farrugia, Josef Bugeja, Joseph Cefai, Jason Portelli, Pierre Azzopardi (kit manager)

Photo by: John Spiteri

It was a league based playoff in which teams faced each other once, with the bottom team being directly relegated to the Second Division, whereas the second placed team would face another Promotion/Relegation Playoff, this team against the runners-up of the Second Division.

Xewkija managed to win both games and hence kept their First Division status.

 

2004 – 2005

In the 2004-05 Gozitan football supporters witnessed one of the best leagues ever with high class foreign and Maltese players playing in the league.  Just to mention a couple of stars that hit the Gozo Stadium turf were Xewkija duo Thierry Tazemeta (former Cameroon Under 21 player and today in Austria’s Bundesliga) and Udo Nwoko (Malta international player and today in Greece’s Superliga).

2004-2005 1
Standing: (from left) Jonathan Xuereb, Darren Pace, Martin Cremona, Joseph Azzopardi, Mark Camilleri, Benneth Njoku, Mahjoub Taoli, Domenic Cilia, Thierry Tazemeta, Paul Hili (kit manager), Raymond Vella (coach), Joseph Attard (committee), Jeffrey Farrugia (president)
Sitting: Rueben Camilleri, Udo Nwoko, Jules Ngangue, Sabri Rais, Christian Bugeja, Josef Xerri, Jason Portelli, Joseph Cefai

Photo by: John Spiteri

All First Division well equipped to battle it out for the title but the two most consistent sides were Ghajnsielem and Xewkija Tigers who led the battle till the very end with Ghajnsielem winning the Championship after a 50 year absence and the Tigers winning both the G.F.A. Cup (for the seventh time) and the Super Cup (for the first time) against the same Blacks.

2004-2005 2
Captain Sabri Rais recieving G.F.A. Trophy won against Ghajnsielem.

 

2005 – 2006

The previous season has left a devastating effect on all local clubs especially on the most successful sides of the previous season (Xewkija Tigers and Ghajnsielem).  In fact Xewkija didn’t manage better than fourth and Ghajnsielem only managed sixth and a Promotion/Relegation Playoff.

2005-2006 1
Back: (from left) Benneth Njoku, Domenic Cilia, Sabri Rais, Martin Cremona, Michael Pace, Shaun Mizzi, Andreas Fotso
Middle: Christian Bugeja, Joseph Cordina, Shaun Debono, John Xerri, Peter Spiteri, Frank Vella
Sitting: Joseph Azzopardi, Edmond Tchawou, Jules Ngangue (coach), Franco Azzopardi (committee), Joseph Cefai, Rueben Camilleri

Photo by: John Spiteri

The vast majority of the players had left the club and the absence of Tazameta (32 goals) and Nwoko adding to the misery.

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