There are very few people, if any nowadays, who remember how football was played in the 1920s.

Those were indeed the good old days of our game when Floriana and Sliema Wanderers were the dominant teams.

The Old Firm rivals had many first-class players in their ranks.

Floriana could boast the likes of Carmelo Cauchi, Gejtu Psaila, Salvu Grima and Emmanuel Azzopardi.

The Blues, on their part, were blessed with players of the calibre of Joe Nicholl, Archie Caunter, Ġużi Pisani, Eddie Caunter, Ruġġieru Friggieri, Frankie Busuttil and Eddie Conti.

One other player from those far-off days was Ġianni Mifsud. He was a strong individual who used to play at left-half for Sliema Wanderers.

In Mifsud’s days, the half-back was the equivalent of the modern defending midfielder.

The game was rough and unrefined and the half-backs needed to be tough and strong to stop raiding opposing forwards. Players were much stronger physically than nowadays but this does not mean that skills were lacking.

Mifsud was strong as an ox and woe befell the player who was reckless enough to get involved in a collision with him.

His tackling was prompt and to the point and rarely did an opponent get past him. He was also a quick-thinking player and his constructive play in midfield was second to none.

Mifsud also headed the ball with efficiency while his shooting power left little to be desired. In spite of his robust frame, Mifsud was a tireless worker and could be found wherever danger threatened.

He forged a great partnership with centre-half Archie Caunter and right-half Ġużi Psaila. In the 20s, these three fine players formed the perfect intermediate line of defence for the Wanderers.

Mifsud made effective use of the ground pass and stopped many opposing movements by his sense of positional play. His best season was 1925-26 when Sliema won the league with maximum points after beating Floriana 4-1 in what was described, at the time, as the match of the season.

They then went on to beat Floriana 1-0 in the Cousis Shield final.

Mifsud was one of the protagonists of an extraordinary season when the Blues’ defence conceded just two goals in the league and scored 27 goals in only six matches.

The game against Floriana was one of the best ever played by the Wanderers. A 4-1 victory was already a superb result but to come against Floriana was something which every true Sliema fan dreamed of. That day the festivities went on well into the night in Sliema.

Mifsud played perhaps the game of his life on December 8 when Sliema and Floriana faced each other again in the final of the Cousis Shield. During the first 90 minutes no goals were scored and the match had to go into extra time.

In the third minute of the extra half-hour, Frankie Busuttil scored the winning goal.

Mifsud was picked to play for the MFA XI against foreign teams three times and twice he was picked for the MFA against Service Representative XIs. He was chosen to play against Cronogoroc in 1927 and vs Hajduks and Grenoble in 1928.

Mifsud spent 10 seasons with the Wanderers before he was forced to retire when he joined the Malta Police force. Thereby, Sliema lost not only a player whose lion-hearted courage was second to none but also a fine and constructive ball player.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us