Norwich City were our first overseas visitors for the 1979 season. They played the State team on Sunday 13th May, and as our usual venue of Perry Lakes was already booked for another 150th Year Celebration event, we had to look for an alternative ground. Fortunately for us the Cricket Association came to the rescue and allowed us to use the sacred turf of the W.A.C.A., which proved to be an excellent place to stage an International, with first class covered stands for some eight thousand spectators, modern bars and cafeteria facilities.
Norwich came in their famous canary colours of yellow and green when they were sixteenth in the First Division English League, but their lowly position in the league reputed to be the toughest in the world is a very commendable effort. So they were formidable opposition for the Western Australian part timers who met them on a most beautiful day, which should have encouraged the game to be well supported. Unfortunately Norwich were without English World Cup hero Martin Peters and the game was without the support it so richly deserved.
In keeping with most of our International matches, this was an undistinguished affair. Our players did not rise to the heights of immaculate skills, but we did get the anticipated football from the visitors with their verve and professionalism. It was young Justin Fashanu who sealed the fate of Western Australia when he scored two goals for his side. He is one of the many young coloured players now emerging in British soccer in ever increasing numbers. Although the State team strove hard to keep in touch, they were on the defensive for long periods of the play. Captain Steve Sceats was ably backed by Tony Witschge and Keith Jones in a successful endeavour to keep the score down. It wasn't until late in the game that newly capped Graham Cramphorn scored a consolation goal for the State.
In October the Sabah State Football Club came from Malaysia to play games against Gosnells City, East Fremantle Tricolore, and the State Under-19 team. The reputation which preceded them was that they had regular success in their own competition; but they were soundly beaten by each team they played here, and one can only imagine that the uncommonly cold conditions for them had a detrimental effect on their play.
December came, and with it an invitation to have a Yugoslav First Division side, Vardar, here to play against the State team. When a survey was carried out, it conclusively indicated that if the match was taken we would be assured of a fairly substantial gate, and at least six thousand spectators would attend. Unfortunately people again stayed away in droves, and a paltry 1,800 paying adults were sprinkled over the spacious spectator areas of the Perth Oval. What a shame! Those people who stayed away missed one of the best performances our State team has given for a long time. They carved into the defence of their more experienced opponents, and a game that finished in a 4-4 draw could easily have been a well deserved win for the State side.
Into 1980, and another gamble by the Soccer Federation. When offered the famed Red Star Belgrade, a team bristling with International players, and renowned throughout the world as one of the best teams in modern times, what were they to do? After the debacle of Vardar, should they commit themselves again and chance another game when the crowd might easily be of such lowly proportions as to bring the game into disrepute? It was decided it couldn't happen again. After all, this was the famed Red Star Belgrade, packed with International players such as goalkeeper Stojanovic, fullback Jovanovic, goal scoring centre forward Dusan Savic, captain and inside forward Vladimir Petrovic, and allied by one of the most honoured and beloved men in European football, Dragan Djajic.
But on a beautiful night beneath the improved lighting at the Velodrome, only just over 3,000 adults attended the game. And Red Star really showed us star quality soccer. Their skilful exhibition of soccer as it Should be played was eagerly lapped up by the quality-starved Perth soccer patrons who forsook their local lads to laud the conquering visitors who coasted home by five goals to nil, and in doing so made the Velodrome pitch look like Wembley Stadium. Their goal scorers were Savic, Stojanovic, Repcic, Filipocic and Milosauljovic. Although Western Australia could not match the skills of their opponents, they tried hard, and no one was more industrious than captain Stephen Sceats, who tried hard by example to urge his team on. It must have been disappointing to the team to lose so convincingly after they had played so well against Vardar.
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This page was last updated on the 24th February 2006