Earlier this week, Paola has woken up shocked with the news that Jimmy Mizzi, one of its greatest footballers, had passed away at the age of 81.
Jimmy was one of the Hibernians heroes who in 1960-61 brought the first championship trophy to Paola. He was one of the last survivors of that great team and would be missed by everybody who knew him.
Born in Paola on September 18, 1939, Mizzi graduated through Hibernians’ minors and reserves strings until he made his first team debut in the league match against Floriana on February 2, 1959.
Mizzi showed great promise and he finished his first season with one goal from six appearances. However, in the FA Trophy match against Ħamrun Spartans, he scored two fine goals which made the Stadium fans stop and wonder.
The next season, Mizzi scored five league goals, helping Hibs to the runners-up spot in the league.
He scored twice more in the Cassar Cup and was taken with the first team on a memorable trip to Tunis.
On that trip, Hibs beat UST Tunis 1-0 and Stade Tunesianne 2-1. Mizzi was the star of that tour, scoring two fine goals against the latter.
Short for a striker, Mizzi made up for his lack of height with his opportunism and a never-ending supply of energy.
He could shoot hard and accurately from any angle, but his biggest asset was his poaching skills. In the box, he was deadly if left unmarked even for a second as he showed in the 1960-61 second round match against Valletta when he scored the two goals which gave Hibs their first championship.
In 1961-62 he scored a fine hat-trick against St George’s which took Hibs to the FA Trophy final.
Against Valletta, Mizzi scored again to help Hibs win the FA Trophy for the first time.
Valletta seemed to be Mizzi’s favourite team because in the Cassar Cup final he scored again to help Hibs win a memorable double.
His goal-scoring feats made him the darling of the Paolites. Imagine therefore, the surprise and disappointment of his fans when, like a bolt out of the blue, he was transferred to Ħamrun Spartans. It is still a mystery to this day why the Hibs committee took such a strange and bizarre decision.
He spent two seasons with the Spartans but although he kept hitting in the goals he never settled down with Ħamrun. He returned for a short stint with Hibs before joining Valletta towards the end of season 1967-68.
His stay at Valletta was short. An eye injury threatened to end his career prematurely but with his usual grit and courage, he overcame this obstacle and before finally retiring he spent two successful seasons with St Patrick’s in the Third Division.
A fine goal-scorer, his only disappointment was the way he was constantly ignored by the national team selectors. Because of the ‘cheeky’ way he scored his goals, Mizzi could be described as the Jimmy Greaves of Maltese football.
When he retired from the game, Mizzi did not take up coaching which was a pity because his knowledge of the game was unique. I know this because we became friends and I had the opportunity to talk football with him.
Jimmy will be sorely missed not only by his family but by his numerous friends and ex-colleagues.