THE Football Hall of Fame WA marked its 21st birthday on December 12 with a celebratory dinner attended by a gathering of some of the State’s greatest players, who also enjoyed a wonderful stroll down memory lane with a former Manchester United star.
Francis Burns, who won a European Cup medal with the Red Devils in 1968, led a 50th anniversary tribute to the Western Australian team that had taken on United in a memorable international challenge at the WACA Ground in 1967.
Although WA had been beaten 7-0 by United in their first ever visit to Perth, it was by no means an effort that caused long-lasting embarrassment.
Manchester United were the champions of England at the time and fielded a team that included some of the club’s all-time greats like Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, George Best, Nobby Stiles, Brian Kidd and David Sadler.
In fact, what was virtually the same team went on a few months later to became the first English club to win the European Cup, beating Benfica 4-1 in the final at Wembley in 1968.
“Our manager, Matt Busby, said to us when we got to Australia in 1967 that he wanted to win the European Cup the following year and he told the players to knuckle down and produce some stirring efforts on tour in order to cement their places. So, there were plenty of lads with something to prove when the team got to Perth – and they didn’t disappoint,” said Burns, who missed the game through injury.
Burns, who now lives in Perth, presented memorabilia posters to five of the surviving members of the WA team – Peter Mitchell, Alister Norwood, Theo Paap, Graham Oughton and Christian Ducasse. Team manager Bob Brown and State federation president at the time, Julius Re, also received certificates.
Ducasse had been given the unenviable task of marking George Best in that game. “He got a hat-trick, so you can imagine how difficult my job was,” recalled Ducasse. “He was amazing – fast and tricky and undoubtedly the best I ever faced.”
Another milestone was celebrated on the night – the 50th anniversary of WA’s first venture into Asia to play in the Merdeka Cup in Kuala Lumpur. It was a history-making trip, with the State side becoming the first Australian team to take part in an Asian tournament.
Lisa O’Malley MLA, representing the State Government, made presentations to four of the squad that was involved in that breakthrough Asian trip – Peter Mitchell, Theo Paap, Graham Oughton and Christian Ducasse. Bob Brown and Julius Re also received awards.
Ms O’Malley also presented a framed memento to the Perth-based Indonesian Vice-Consul, Mr Omar Harris, on the 21st anniversary of WA’s international challenge against Indonesia – played at Dorrien Gardens in 1996. It is the only time the Indonesian national side has competed in WA.
Several of the West Australian players who took part in that game – which was televised live to an estimated audience of 60 million back in Indonesia and which the State side won 3-1 on penalties after being deadlocked at 2-2 at the end of normal time – turned up to join in the celebrations.
Eric Williams, who was the State team coach in 1996, presented memorabilia posters to former Socceroos goalkeeper and Hall of Fame Legend Robbie Zabica, who captained WA against Indonesia, and to Ross Greer and Alan Mackenzie, who scored the two goals in normal time.
Other presentations were made to Tommy Maras, Steve Bourne and Raymond Kastropil, who also took part in the international contest.
Other members of the team were unfortunately unavailable to attend, some because of work commitments or family events.
But many former State stars turned up to applaud and cheer the 1996 players, including Hall of Fame Legend Robbie Dunne, goalscoring great John Van Oosten, WA stalwarts Peter Holt and Tommy Carruthers, and Denis Barstow, who captained the State team to a famous triumph in the Marah Halim Cup in Indonesia in 1976.
Former top referees Barry Harwood, David Mortimer, Frank Moretti and Steve Muldoon, who have all been inducted into the Hall of Fame, were also in attendance to enjoy the birthday celebrations – as were former Perth Glory chief executive Roger Lefort and Football West Board member Henry Atturo.
The Football Hall of Fame WA was established in 1996 by the then State governing body, Soccer Administration of WA. It was the first of its type in Australia and has held six Induction Ceremonies, and staged other major events. It is a not for profit organisation and is endorsed by Football West, which was a major sponsor of the 21st birthday function.
The Committee of the Football Hall of Fame WA is also grateful to the sponsorship support of the Wright Burt Foundation, the Fini Group, Osborne Park Mazda and Prosperity Strata Management, who all contributed so generously to making the anniversary function possible.
Thanks also to Perth Soccer Club for making their club premises at Dorrien Gardens available for the dinner and for the traditional Ashes Football match, which was held earlier in the day.
PIC ONE: Christian Ducasse (left) receives his WA-Man Utd certificate from Francis Burns. PIC TWO: Alister Norwood (left) and Francis Burns. PIC THREE: Lisa O’Malley hands over a Merdeka Cup poster to Peter Mitchell. PIC FOUR: Theo Paap receives his Merdeka Cup cert from Lisa O’Malley. PIC FIVE: Ross Greer (left) is congratulated by Eric Williams. PIC SIX: Alan Mackenzie (left) receives his memento from Eric Williams.