Football and migration in Australia

This post is part of a collection of posts on ‘The beautiful game’ display at the Johnny Warren Indoor Sports Centre, Penshurst.

Historians have argued that football thrived in Australia because of its multicultural community, especially after Australia’s qualification for the 1974 FIFA World Cup. Prime Minister Gough Whitlam said at the time that “soccer has undoubtedly played a major role in the integration of all migrants into the Australian community.” [1]

The 1974 World Cup squad of 22 players was comprised of players from many different cultures that reflected the composition of post-war immigration to Australia. The teams coach, Rale Rasic, himself a migrant born in the former Yugoslavia, reflected that “it was unheard of to have, say, anyone but a German in their national team, anyone but an Italian in their side, or anyone but an Englishman in the England team. But here I was, like a barman, mixing up all these ingredients into an incredible and unique cocktail.” [3]

This tradition of inclusion continues today with a number of regional competitions providing refugee communities with a link to their home countries and a way to connect with new people. [4]

Items on show in ‘The beautiful game’ display: 1974 commemorative vessel, courtesy Football Federation Australia and signed Johnny Warren book, courtesy private lender.

[1] Marion Stell and Chris Salisbury, “‘It’s bigger than the Olympics’: changing Australia through football and the 1974 FIFA World Cup”, Soccer & Society, Volume 16, Numbers 2-3, 2015, p. 247
[2] Ibid.
[3] Rale Rasic interviewed by Roy Hay for the Sport oral history project
[4] ‘Soccer providing vital link between refugees and their new regional community’, ABC Coffs Coast, 12 February 2020

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