"This page contains a sequence of events from my first contact with pigeons over 25 years ago, till when I achieved my goal of winning the MALTA NATIONAL OVERALL DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP from amongst 1,600 members racing at the time with the Malta Federation of Racing Pigeon Clubs. This award was my dream come true, and even though I am still racing pigeons, since achieving my goal, I have not fully concentrated on my pigeons, due to other various other family and work commitments, to which I have to give my priority. As every pigeon fancier well knows, every race has a different story to tell and one race is never like another. The beauty about our sport is that when you think you think you know all there is to know about pigeon, you realize that you still know nothing at all!! My most treasured memory is the first time I won the first prize from the longest race point of the season (Mandredonia-660km), on the day, back in 1993.I have a vivid picture of this blue chequered white flighted pigeon, circling like an eagle high in the sky upon returning home after over 11 hours on the wing."
"ON A FINAL NOTE : When the day dawns that the excitement and thrill evaporate when waiting for and seeing a pigeon returning for a race, that shall be the day when I retire from the pigeon sport."
I cannot really come to terms with myself on how I got the 'pigeon bug'. Before starting to write this article I was going through all my pigeon memoirs, and came across an old scrap of paper containing a list of sixteen pigeons with ring numbers dating back to 1963. At the time my father used to keep some pigeons himself. So it might be that 'the pigeon bug' was inherited genetically!! However I still recall the days when on the way home from my private lessons, I would stop to look at flocks of pigeons flying round the rooftops, and then making friends with the local pigeon community, which I prefer not to mention by name, just in case of missing any of them!! It seems as though these fanciers took a liking to me as a young enthusiast, or maybe due to their acquaintance of my father, who already knew most of them through his profession of an architect. After seeing my enthusiasm, I was given a few pigeons and also some eggs and squeakers. Although my father used to keep pigeons in his teens, he was not very impressed with the outcome, fearing that my studies would be in jeopardy with this new sport I was about to endeavor. Eventually we reached a compromise, and that was it.
I raced my first pigeon on the 18th November 1988, when I sent two pigeons to Belvedere (155km), and lost them both!!. I was not disheartened, and in the third race I competed in, I managed to win my first certificate: 16th place Belvedere (155km). At the time I used to race my pigeons from a small internal yard, and it was very difficult for me to teach the youngsters get used to their improvised loft. In the process I lost a lot of the young birds upon taking their first flight, till they got accustomed to the surroundings. However by the next racing season (1989-90), I managed to win a fair share of placings and trophies and ended up THIRD PLACE IN THE SHORT DISTANCE AGGREGATE of the club (SARPC). Seeing my interest in the pigeons, my father managed to get me some eggs from some of the top fanciers on the island, and his love for the pigeon sport was rekindled. So we decided to construct a loft on our roof to house the racers, and retain the stock birds in the yard.
The next season (1990-91), I started my studies at the University of Malta reading a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree, and had little time for the pigeons. Although we managed to win our share of prizes, we did not qualify in any of the club championships.
The following season (1991-92) I was appointed Secretary of the local pigeon club I coped very well with my studies and the pigeons. This was a fantastic season for me. I won 28 prizes in the 28 races of the program, including 9 x 1st prizes. The other 21 prizes ranked in the first seven positions. By the end of the season, I was the SHORT DISTANCE CHAMPION, runner up LONG DISTANCE CHAMPION, and OVERALL CHAMPION OF THE CLUB; the latter title being the most prestigious title of the racing season.
The following year (1992-93) was quite a hard year with my studies and I had had to miss a few races. However I still managed to win 4th place in the SHORT DISTANCE AGGREGATE.
Season 1993-94 was my final year at the University, and with the final exams ready by January 1994, I spent most of my time with the pigeons. I graduated as a Bachelor of Pharmacy later on in the year. I was again blessed with success due to the hard work I dedicated to the pigeons. I managed to win the OVERALL CHAMPION OF THE CLUB, 2nd in the SHORT DISTANCE AGGREGATE, and 4th in the LONG DISTANCE AGGREGATE.
During the season 1994-95 I started my full time job as a medical representative. This called for time spent abroad on training courses, so I only competed in a few short distance races. I still ended the season in 3rd place in the SHORT DISTANCE AGGREGATE.
In Season 1995-96, I had as much free time as I liked to spend with my racing pigeon team. My job had very flexible hours and left me a lot of free time. I won 3rd SHORT DISTANCE AGGREGATE, the LONG DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP, and the OVERALL CHAMPION OF THE CLUB. I also won the ACE PIGEON SHORT DISTANCE, 2nd ACE PIGEON LONG DISTANCE and ACE PIGEON OVERALL DISTANCE, together with 45 trophies in the races, which was a record for my club. I also was 33rd in the LONG DISTANCE, and 65th in the OVERALL AGGREGATES with over 1250 members competing in the Maltese Federation. In Season 1996-97, my father and I decided to compete in two different clubs, with a loft on each of our names. So I left the club I was racing with for the past eight years and joined the Northern District Homing Union (NDHU). NDHU was the strongest club of the 23 competing clubs on the island, at the time being National Federation Champions for a number of years. Still I was convinced that I could compete with the best and overcome the competition. This would also make me even more selective with my pigeons. Dad joined the Sliema Racing Pigeon Club (SRPC). Competing in two clubs, thinking about it today, was not the best of moves, because we still raced from the one loft, and had to house double the amount of pigeons; in order to compete in the full racing program. Besides we started to disagree about certain issues, because I had my ideas and dad had his diametrically opposite ideas. Despite our differences and to our surprise, our performances that season, were better than we expected. I ended the season 2nd in the TWO BIRD NOMINATION CHAMPIONSHIP, 2nd SHORT DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP, 5th LONG DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP and 7th OVERALL DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP. Dad's performance was quite outstanding too. He ended the season 3rd LONG DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP and 3rd OVERALL DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP. Both of us placed amongst the TOP 100 FANCIERS OF THE MALTA FEDERATION.
Season 1997/98 was also quite a good season for me. Still racing with NDHU (I still do till the present day), I won over 11 trophies (placing amongst the first 8 pigeons of the race, with an average birdage of 500 birds per race). A notable performance was from the race point Catanzaro (390km). There are only three races in the season from this race point. In the first Catanzaro I won 2nd Club and 16th National (5,968 pigeons); in the second Catanzaro I won 1st Club and 2nd National (5,558 pigeons); and in the 3rd Catanzaro I won 1st Club and 2nd National (5,295 pigeons). The above prizes were won with three different pigeons, which were later sold to Taiwanese pigeon fanciers. I ended the season as the runner up in the SHORT DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP, 16th in the LONG DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP, and 5th in the OVERALL DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP.
The 1998/99 season was an average one for me. I was investing much of my time in my work, consolidating and strengthening my company, with the intention of leaving my full time job as a medical representative and simply focusing on the veterinary business. I still raced most of the race program and won a couple of trophies. I ended the season 13th SHORT DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP, 15th LONG DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP, and 18th OVERALL DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP, in the NDHU club. I also placed 37th in the NATIONAL SHORT DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP and 80th in the NATIONAL OVERALL DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP, which was not so bad after all, when one considers that there were nearly 1400 members competing in the Federation.
The 1999/2000 Season involved many business trips abroad, but I was lucky to have my dad around taking the helm, whilst I was away. Still I took part in the races when I could and my performance was quite satisfactory when one considers the brief time I was spending with the pigeons. I ended the season 5th SHORT DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP, 13th LONG DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP, and 7th OVERALL DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP, in the NDHU club. I also placed 18th in the NATIONAL SHORT DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP and 24th in the NATIONAL OVERALL DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP.
I consider the year 2000 as the cornerstone and the beginning of the rest of my life. I quit my full time job to establish the first VETERINARY PHARMACY on the island. This involved many sleepless nights of hard work. My father was constructing a new block of flats of his own. The plan was to use the ground floor as an office, store and pharmacy; and to construct a pigeon loft for myself on the roof of the block on the 6th floor. With the top priority being the interior decoration of the office, store and pharmacy, I decided to race my pigeons only for training purposes up to a distance of 270km from Reggio from my old loft, so as to break them to my new loft in the Summer of 2001, when the new loft was scheduled to be completed. Then I would race the pigeons as one year olds, already raced as young birds, on the widowhood system from my new loft. No expense was spared in the construction of the new loft. 40 widowhood nestboxes with conveyor belts for electric dropping-removing, were purchased from Germany and installed in the new loft. The floors were covered with wooden grills and the top was made of a special double Perspex. (Pictures of my new loft can be viewed in the LOFT PICTURES pages). Everything went according to plan and by the end of the racing season 2000/01, I had over 40 raced young birds, ready to be broken to my new loft. But my biggest disappointment was yet to come. I locked up these pigeons in my new loft for a couple of days and one evening let them out for a bath. Yet all the 40 birds went back to their old loft which was only about 25 metres away and 4 storeys below, and could be easily seen from my new loft. I tried in vain for 2 days to try and entice them to come back to their new loft by hunger and thirst. Still it was very difficult. The problem was that my father was still using the loft to race his pigeons, and so my pigeons could still enter the old loft whenever the traps were open. To cut a long story short, I managed to get them all used to their new loft with about 5 weeks left for the first race of the 2001/02 racing season. The birds were all paired up and looked happy and were all rearing a youngster, ready to be switched to the widowhood system, which I had never raced with before, as soon as the season started. One week before the start of the 2001/02 racing season I removed the hens form the cocks. A few days after I did this, the cocks went berserk. As soon as I let them out they would just fly down to their old loft again, and the only way to get them back, was by hunger and thirst, not to mention my younger brother spending many hours trying to flag them and scare them to go back to their new loft. It was a frustrating ordeal, but I decided to race these pigeons anyway, which culminated in disastrous losses and drastic results. It was a humiliating experience, and I was the joke of the club. By the middle of the season had lost all my raced pigeons. Without any alternative option, I immediately paired up my stock birds and started breeding young birds to be reared to my new loft, with the intention of making a comeback with my new loft in the next season. "BOY - WHAT A COMEBACK IT WAS" ……..
The 2002/2003 commenced on the 24th November 2002, but little was I to know that this would be the most OUTSTANDING season I ever had. I was still racing with the NDHU club which in 2001/02, was again honoured with the BEST CLUB OVERALL DISTANCE; I raced right through the race program, sending the maximum of 10 pigeons to each race (the national bird limit per fancier). I won all the honours there are to win in the club, which for the fifth year running was the BEST CLUB OVERALL DISTANCE. I was in the lead of the FEDERATION NATIONAL CHAMPION from the middle of the season up till the last race. I ended the season as the OVERALL DISTANCE NATIONAL CHAMPION with a total of 8339 points.
Included at the end of the page are all the races of the season with all prizes won and other relevant details.
VICTORY LOFTS ACHIEVEMENTS FOR THE SEASON INCLUDED:
NDHU CLUB LEVEL:
- SHORT DISTANCE CHAMPION
- LONG DISTANCE CHAMPION
- OVERALL DISTANCE CHAMPION
- TWO BIRD NOMINATION CHAMPION
- MOST POINTS REGGIO CALABRIA
- MOST POINTS METAPUNTO & BARI
- ACE PIGEON SHORT DISTANCE: 3RD, 6TH, 9TH, 17TH
- ACE PIGEON LONG DISTANCE: 2ND, 3RD, 5TH, 11TH
- ACE PIGEON OVERALL DISTANCE: 2ND,5TH,8TH,11TH,13TH,18TH,19TH
MALTA FEDERATION LEVEL:
- 4TH SHORT DISTANCE CHAMPION
- RUNNER-UP LONG DISTANCE CHAMPION
- OVERALL DISTANCE CHAMPION