On the History of Football in Australia
Prime Minister at that time, Harold Holt, dispatched the Australian national soccer team to Saigon during Vietnam War. It was not ‘down under,’ but in the middle of the Vietnam War that the Socceroos were formed, with a sky illuminated only by flares and a flurry of helicopters hovering above. Athletes would mix with the American soldiers they had come to support in order to “raise morale.” Whereas one squad braved the jungles, the other searched the arid plains for bombs and other weapons to keep them safe, they were split into two groups.
From 1960 until 1963, FIFA forbade Australia from fielding foreign players, thus putting the country’s national team on the sidelines. Eventually, FIFA stopped the ban, allowing the Australians to face North Korea in Cambodia in 1965 to earn a World Cup. However, North Korea turned down participation from the United Kingdom by a score of 9-2. In the competition’s first year, the Koreans won over the North East of England with their technical prowess. Several attacks took place on the stadium throughout the conflict, including one on October 4, 1965, in which bombs detonated and killed 11 people and injured 42 others. An overpowering smell of dread pervaded the stadium. Many Australian soccer bettors and those looking for the best betting apps for 2021 in Australia know about the historic match where Australians scored their first goal. Against the Kiwis in November, Attila Abonyi scored Australia’s first goal, which would become known as Thóng Nhát (the reunification stadium) after the Second World War. Abonyi, an Australian soccer player of Hungarian blood, represented Australia in the 1974 World Cup finals in West Germany. He then went on to represent his nation at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Munich. Following his many achievements and hard work, a street in the Sydney suburb of Glenwood has been renamed Abonyi Place after him.
The crew remained in Saigon’s ‘Golden Building,’ safe place to the Australian Embassy and the Australian soldiers who befriended them. Although the hotel had a good reputation in a war-torn city, it failed to live up to expectations. Guests complained that the restaurant served “rancid spam” for dinner and described it as “filthy and worn down.” When the Viet Cong blew up the hotel daily, the Australians inside were in grave danger.
After three years as a Red Devils junior player (1959-1961), Stan Ackerley joined the Australian squad in 1963. The Old Trafford scoring mark was broken in 1959-60 by Dennis Viollet, a former Munich player who scored 32 league goals and established a club record. As a result of his professional path, Ackerley played for clubs like Oldham Athletic, Kidderminster Athletic, and Altrincham after failing at United.
South Vietnam’s Vice President rewarded Australia with a six-month pay bonus in return for forfeiting the November 7th match versus South Vietnam. Nguyen Cao Ky, a voter in the rigged elections of 1967 that saw Nguyen Ván Thiéu elected president, had been told: “where to go.” The visitors took advantage of a poor field to go up 1-0 via Australian skipper Johnny Warren in the 35th minute. The Johnny Warren Medal, awarded annually to the league’s top player, is a major prize for AFL players. Warren was nicknamed “Captain Socceroo” for his work promoting soccer in his home Australia.
They were instructed to stay in their locker room for 30 minutes after the game ended to prevent enraging the furious Vietnamese crowds. Some protesters hurled rocks at the team bus as it headed back to the “Golden Building,” hoping to shatter the windows. After a football match, local discontent developed into hostility against the Australians who had physically attacked them in a secluded area. A few beers and steaks instead of spam greeted the victorious team when they landed in Saigon. Australian troops who had made friends with the Canberra garrison, fondly known as the “Canberra,” drove them through Saigon’s tiny alleys.
Abonyi scored three goals in Australia’s 5-1 victory against Singapore, their next match. As a result, Ray Baartz had to play a strong Malaysian team in the semi-finals, which Ray Baartz won by a slender 1-0 margin in extra time. Baartz, a native of New South Wales, returned to Australia from Manchester United with a transfer fee of £5,600, breaking the country’s record. On November 14, in front of a maximum audience of 30,000 people, the Australians faced South Korea in the tournament’s final game. Before the game, Australian troops who now consider the football squad their brothers were denied entry.
When the Australian football players heard this, they refused to leave their locker room and insisted that their compatriots be let into the arena. In the end, Australia won the Independence Cup 3-2 thanks to a goal by captain Warren in front of Australian Army soldiers. In November, Warren was greeted by ex-pats and residents alike as he stood on the steps of Cong Hoa Stadium with his trophy in hand. Australia’s football squad traveled via Vietnam and Indonesia the next day. First first international soccer trophy for Australia when they won the South Vietnam Independence Cup on December 1, 1967. The fact that Australian football’s journey started in Saigon is seldom known, even though the “Socceroos” are now a global brand.