Crowd scene at Olympic Park with Fabio Cudicini in the Roma goal: Source: Laurie Schwab, The Socceroos and their Opponents.
A S Roma visit to Australia in 1966
By Roy Hay
Published in Goal Weekly, Monday, 28 February, 2011, p. 15, as ‘AS Roman Empire conquers Australia.’
When the suspension of Australia’s membership of FIFA was lifted in 1963 tours by overseas clubs could resume. Everton and Chelsea arrived in 1964 and 1965 respectively, and they were followed in 1966 by Italian giant AS Roma. Roma had won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the predecessor of the Europa Cup in 1961 and the Coppa Italia in 1964, but had narrowly escaped financial collapse in 1965. Supporters bailed out the club and a new president took over, so the trip to Australia was a fresh start.
Roma was the first Italian club to arrive after the Second World War and it played two games against Victoria at Olympic Park in 1966, setting the crowd attendance record for that venue variously put at 37,500 and 35,856 in the first of these. Either way it is the crowd record for Olympic Park and more than double its capacity in 2011. Spectators filled the ground, encroaching to the very touchlines, while others clambered to vantage points such as the top of the grandstand roof, nearby trees and the back of the adjacent velodrome.
Roma won the first game by four goals to two after scoring in the first minute through Angelo Spanio, but when the Vics hit back with goals by Norm Gajda and Frank Micic, the crowd began singing ‘Arrivederci Roma’, before late efforts by Spanio again, Fulvio Francesconi and an overhead kick by Victor Benitez swung the game back to the visitor. The second match attracted 15,694. Roma won by a goal to nil.
Soccer News devoted most of its 12 pages to the tour in its issue of 2 June 1966, with a double page spread of Uwe Kuessner’s photographs in the centre of the paper. The Victorian Soccer Federation was a major beneficiary. The two matches helped turn a ‘considerable deficit in 1965 into big profit in 1966,’ according to Bob Low, writing in the Soccer World Annual the next year. The Australian and the Age had several columns devoted to the visit by the Italians and tour companies and sponsors supported the encounters with advertisements.
Melbourne provided two of the stops on an intensive 8-game month-long tour which took in matches against Australia in Sydney, Northern New South Wales in Newcastle, New South Wales, Queensland, South and Western Australia. The Victorian Soccer Federation was castigated in the Sydney press when it refused to release more than two players for the Socceroos, but sole selector, Frank Parsons, went ahead and nominated four, though only one actually played against Roma—central defender Billy Rice.
All the games drew good crowds with the exception of the match against the Socceroos at the Sydney Showgrounds on 13 June, when the weather was bad and the pitch very heavy. The teams for that match were: Australia: Bill Rorke, Trevor Edwards, George Nuttall, Pat Hughes, Billy Rice, John Watkiss, Bruce Morrow, Ricardo Campana, John Giacometti, Danny Walsh, Doug Holden. AS Roma: Fabio Cudicini, Glauco Tomasin, Mario Ardizzon, Francesco Capelli, Giacomo Lossi, Sergio Carpanesi, Lamberto Leonardi (Aldo Sensibile), Victor Benitez, Riccardo Da Silva, Giuseppe Tamborini, Fulvio Francesconi .
Bruce Morrow scored for the Socceroos in 67 minutes from what the Italians claimed was well offside. Campana sent a long ball down the middle and Morrow raced on to it as the Italian defence stopped. Linesman Vince Dobinson kept his flag down and Morrow ran on to score. Australia was in touching distance of its first win over a touring team since the setting up of the Australian Soccer Federation. It was not till the 88th minute that Roma midfielder Giuseppe Tamborini got the equaliser, when he nipped in after the ball stuck in the mud between defender Trevor Edwards and keeper Bill Rorke. Roger Lamb refereed the game. Joe Marston was the Australian coach.
The match in Newcastle against Northern NSW drew nearly 15 000 and was evenly balanced at two-one to the visitors when Bruce Morrow, who had scored already, hit a shot which keeper Alberto Ginulfi spilled against the post and along or over the goal line. Linesman Bill Jones kept his flag down and Roma made the best of the narrow escape. Victor Benitez grabbed a hat trick and the final goal came at the end of a 50-metre run by Fulvio Francesconi.
Roma played the New South Wales state team the following day in front of nearly a full house of over 32 000 at the Showgrounds and won by the odd goal in three. The New South Wales team for that match was Peter Fuzes, Cliff van Blerk, George Nuttall, Danny Walsh, Alan Marnoch, Fil Bottalico, Geoff Sleight, Ricardo Campana, Archie Blue, John Watkiss, Doug Holden. Ron Giles was the substitute.
Next weekend Roma thrashed Queensland by six-nil. The squad selected to represent Queensland was R Kelly, W Haig, G Kathage, Matt Jackson, Matt Hosie, Lance Petic, Graham McMillan, Ray Richards, Eric Pattison, R Edmunds, K Jones, with Ian Johnstone on standby if Pattison failed a fitness test. Roma keeper Fabio Cudicini, the father of present day Tottenham Hotspur goalie Carlo, got a surprise when he was told in the middle of the tour that he had been sold.
After the match against Australia, Roma returned to Victoria and then travelled to South Australia where it won by three goals to nil against the state team.
By the time the tourists got to Perth they were understandably tired and the West Australian team led by two goals to one with only 20 minutes left. That game was played at the magnificent new Perry Lakes Stadium which cost $2 million. Somehow Roma’s players roused themselves and powered away to a four-two result in the end. The West Australian team was: Lou Ivanoff, Roy Simpson, Morson, Marchant, Atkinson, Wally Musial; Ireson, Rod Reid, Paul Sobek, Henry Lukoszek, Magennis. Reserves: Norwood, Cairns, Andrioff. Their goals were scored by Reid and Lukoszek.
Date Home G Away G Venue Attendance
29-May-66 Victoria 2 AS Roma 4 Olympic Park 35856
4-Jun-66 Northern NSW 1 AS Roma 4 Newcastle Sportsground 14 931
5-Jun-66 New South Wales 1 AS Roma 2 Sydney Showgrounds 32106
11-Jun-66 Queensland 0 AS Roma 6 Brisbane Exhibition Ground
13-Jun-66 Australia 1 AS Roma 1 Sydney Showgrounds 5469
19-Jun-66 Victoria 0 AS Roma 1 Olympic Park 15694
26-Jun-66 South Australia 0 AS Roma 3 Olympic Sports Field 13000
3-Jul-66 West Australia 2 AS Roma 4 Perry Lakes Stadium 15000