Thursday 27 April 2017

FFA wakes up to its history

Goal Weekly, Monday 30 June 2008, p. 11.

At last there are signs that the Football Federation of Australia is beginning to recognise that the game in this country has a history, and that the custodian of the sport in 2008 has a duty to understand and appreciate that history. In the early days, following the Frank Lowy take-over, you could accept that he and his cohorts wanted to make a break, to promote new football, not old soccer. Now that they are firmly established, they have the self-confidence to look back and promote the heroes and heroines of the game, who helped make its history.

The FFA has recognised the contribution of the Australian Football Hall of Fame, which was the result of the tireless work of Melbourne Olympic games representative, Ted Smith, Morwell Falcons patron Dom di Fabrizio and journalist Ted Simmons among others. Now the Socceroo Club brings together all those who have worn the green and gold at senior level for Australia. Before Australia took on China in Sydney on 22 June, commemorative caps were presented to Socceroo icons, Ray Richards, Doug Utjesenovic, Ron Corry, Alan Maher, Gary Manuel, Murray Barnes and Charlie Yankos, by another of their number, Ray Baartz.

In his opening remarks, Ray Baartz said the Socceroo Club members were keen to assist the growth of the game. They would give advice to young players considering going overseas. But he pointed to gaps which exist in our football history, including the lack of tradition in the game. The FFA does not have photos of many of the older players who have represented Australia, for example.

The first Socceroo to be recognised was Dragan (Doug) Utjesenovic. He was born in Serbia in 1946 and played with OFK in Belgrade, then came to Australia at age 23 in 1969 He played with JUST and Melbourne Hungaria, then had 10 years with St George Budapest in Sydney. Ray Baartz got a laugh by saying Utjesenovic was his hero when he was growing up. Ray is one year younger than Doug! Doug played every minute of every match in the qualifying rounds and the World Cup finals in 1973–74. In all he had 61 caps and scored two goals between 1972 and 1976. He retired at 34 and went on to coach Apia-Leichardt, Parramatta Eagles and Bonnyrigg White Eagles.

Ray Richards was another born in 1946, in his case in England. He came to Queensland to play for Latrobe, then Hollandia before moving to Sydney Croatia for a season, followed by a decade at Marconi. A tough, all-action midfield enforcer he played in all three matches in Germany at the World Cup in 1974, getting sent off in the final match against Chile. He gained 60 caps and scored 10 goals for the Socceroos.

Gary Manuel is less well known. Born in 1950 he had six games in the green and gold including the matches against Uruguay, Indonesia and Israel in 1974. He played for Prague and Pan-Hellenic in Sydney.

Ron Corry, was born in Sydney in 1941 and played 33 times in goals for the Socceroos. From Canterbury, he moved via Pan Hellenic to Sydney Croatia, where he was keeper from 1966 till 1975. Later he kept for Manly and Marconi, then coached Croatia, Blacktown and Wollongong in the National Soccer League, plus stints as goalkeeping coach with the Socceroos.

Alan Maher was another Socceroo keeper, born in 1950, and racked up 39 games for his country. His club career was spent with Sutherland and Marconi in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Murray Barnes received 51 caps, and scored 9 goals. He skippered the Socceroos in 1980–81 including the World Cup qualifiers when New Zealand topped the Oceania group and went to Spain. He played with Hakoah and with Sydney City in the NSL.

The final honouree got perhaps the biggest cheer of the night, Charlie Yankos. He racked up 86 caps and scored 11 goals including the ferocious free kick against Argentina in the 1988 Gold Cup and another against Israel. Captain of Frank Arok’s ‘mad dogs’ Charlie epitomised the determination of that generation of players. He played with Heidelberg United, then moved to APIA before a stint in Greece with PAOK Salonika in 1988–89. When he returned to Australia he had spells at Blacktown and Wollongong in the NSL.

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