THE WA State team’s embarrassment at receiving a 6-1 thumping by Cardiff City at Perry Lakes Stadium in July, 1968, proved the perfect wake-up call that led to one of the representative side’s most impressive forays into Asia.
Cardiff were 4-0 up at half-time and, despite being reduced to 10 men in the second half, continued their stroll. Substitute Jim McIntosh got WA’s consolation goal late in the game.
The visitors’ outspoken manager, Scotsman Jimmy Scoular, didn’t mince his words regarding the quality of the oppostion, saying: “The match against Western Australia was one of the easiest we played on a long tour of Australia and the result does not express the real difference between the teams.”
Then he added bitingly: “In general Australian football could compare with Welsh 4th division standard and needs a lot of sharpening up.”
Fortunately, the WA side did sharpen up a few weeks later when they travelled to Malaysia to play in the Merdeka Cup tournament.
It was the State team’s second venture into Asia – having finished ninth in the Merdeka event in 1967 – and this time they really made their presence felt, and were unlucky not to go all the way to the final.
They started with a 3-0 win over South Korea and followed up with a 5-4 victory over Indonesia, with John Van Oosten and Henry Lukoszek each getting two goals.
They dominated against Japan in their next game, but went down 1-0 despite, as the local media reported, having 80 per cent of the play. Next up Van Oosten was again in hot form, scoring twice in an ill-tempered clash with Formosa. Jim McIntosh also netted in the 3-2 triumph.
Van Oosten found the target again (Nino Segon, Peter Holt and Tony Lawlor were the other scorers) in a 4-4 draw with Singapore, which was enough to see WA qualify for the semi-finals of the tournament.
Another double from Van Oosten, unfortunately, wasn’t enough to see WA through to the final, going down 4-3 to host nation Malaysia, despite coming from 2-0 down in the first half and then being denied a draw by some sharp goalkeeping by Chow Chee Keong. Malaysia went on to win the Merdeka Cup with a 3-0 win over Burma in the final.
WA, however, received the consolation of being bronze medalists when they beat Indonesia 3-1 in the play-off for third place. The goals came from Richard Kuzimski, Nino Segon and Mike Ireson. Goalkeeper Chris Wissink also was praised for making some stunning saves. The third-place finish was to be WA’s best effort in four appearances in the Merdeka Cup.
Although he didn’t find the net in the last game, Van Oosten was awarded the inaugural Merdeka Medal as the tournament’s leading scorer with eight goals. The Dutch-born striker went on to play 28 times for the State, getting 17 goals all up.
The 1968 Merdeka event was also a memorable occasion for right-winger Peter Holt, who was presented with a special trophy as the team’s most serviceable player. And keeper Chris Wissink received an award as the WA team’s best ambassador.
The squad that took part in the 1968 Merdeka Cup was: Chris Wissink, Pipo Crifo, Vlada Knezovich, Alan Lind, Tony Lawlor, John O’Connell, Henry Lukoszek, Paul Sobek, Jim McIntosh, Peter Holt, Mike Ireson, John Van Oosten, Nino Segon, Gerry Pettit, Richard Kuzimski, John Kosmonopoulos, Lou Andrioff, Zyggie Pieda (player-coach).
**IN FAIRNESS to the WA side that took on Cardiff City, the Bluebirds were tough opponents, having reached the semi-finals of the European Cup Winners Cup in 1968, losing out on a chance at the final by going down 4-3 on aggregate to Hamburg. Norman Dean (2) and Brian Harris, who both played against WA, got the goals against Hamburg. The teenaged John Toshack played in those games, but didn’t score. The Welsh legend in waiting was a sub against WA.
Cardiff’s goals against WA were scored by Leslie Lea, Peter King and Brian Clark, who each got two goals. Clark went on to become an icon with the Bluebirds, scoring a famous goal that downed Real Madrid in a European Cup Winners Cup quarter final in 1971. He later had a road named after him in Cardiff (the Brian Clark Way).
PIC ONE: The 1968 WA State team. PIC TWO: John Van Oosten. PIC THREE: The WA-Cardiff programme, just 20 cents.