1980 will go down as the year that international soccer was beaten, bludgeoned, and buried in Western Australia, possibly for all time. In 1967 over 20,000 people poured through the turnstiles at the WACA to see the famed Manchester United club. In 1969 Cardiff City and Manchester City drew over 12,000 spectators for each game. 13,000 turned out to see Wolves in 1972, and 15,000 braved the elements when Stoke City came in 1973.
Western Australia's State team beat crack Scottish team Glasgow Rangers by two goals to one in 1975, and over 9,000 people were at Perry Lakes to see this historic event. In the same year, even without their big stars of yesteryear, the magic of Manchester United was such that they drew over 14,000 to see that game. The writing was on the wall in 1976, when only 3,000 turned up to see Sunderland, and when 10,000 came to see Tottenham Hotspur in 1976 it was the last time we were to see a large substantial crowd at a game involving an overseas team.
1980's internationals included Red Star Belgrade - the Yugoslav team bristling with international players known throughout the world; A.C. Milan, a first division team from Italy, although in the midst of controversy at home over fraud allegations, nevertheless had an excellent reputation as a team; and to round the year off, we had the United Kingdom national champions, Northern Ireland - a team packed with stars from English First Division clubs, and a reputation for playing the most exciting and positive soccer of any of the home countries.
Now, for all the tremendous programmes of top class soccer, the total number who supported the three games was less than that watching Spurs four years ago - only 9, 131 - or an average of 3,000 per game. In consequence the promoters and the Federation lost substantially. What can we do? Should we stop all international matches and deny the right of our young players to measure themselves against the world? Shall we bury our heads in the sand as the rest of the world goes by, admitting that our interest is so parochial that we really don't care about the game?
The solution appears elementary. We must support ourselves, for nobody else will. There are forty-six clubs in the Federation Leagues. Surely it would not be extravagant to assume that each club has a membership of at least forty players and officials. Double this by taking into account wives and friends, and you should have a potential crowd of 3,200, which generally would almost cover the cost of a normal International match, with admission at a reasonable figure. Now add the extras from the Juniors, Amateurs, Womens, PASSA and our usual loyal supporters, and it can be seen that eight to ten thousand people are not beyond the realms of possibility. That sort of a crowd would ensure that the Federation would have money to develop the game and ease the burden of the long suffering clubs.
Just over 3,000 people came to the Velodrome to watch Red Star Belgrade play the State team in January, and what an exhibition of soccer those few were fortunate enough to witness. The Yugoslav team made the small pitch at the Velodrome look as large as Wembley, as they tantalised the partisans from Perth with scintillating skills which brought them a 5-0 victory.
In June, A.C. Milan finished their Australian tour when they played the State team at the WACA in front of 3,500 people. This was one of the best games the Western Australian team had played. The Italians soon lived up to their reputations as adroit players, but for sustained periods the local lads matched them in every way. But it was the visitors who were first to score through Guiseppe Galuzzo, and further goals were added in the second half through Carrotti and Antonelli. It looked allover bar the shouting when substitute David Fidoe passed to Frank Smerilli who blasted a twenty metre shot past Navazzotti in the eightieth minute: and only three minutes later Fidoe scored himself during a goalmouth scramble.
Probably the biggest disappointment of all the games was the small roll up to see the full national side, Northern Ireland. Only 2,631 men, women and children were at the WACA on the 23rd June to see the Irish star- studded team do battle against Western Australia. Unlike their previous game against Milan, the State team appeared lethargic and indifferent, and the Northern Ireland team were able to command the field with nonchalant ease, which seems to be the hallmark of complete professionals. O'Neill, Armstrong and Cochran (2) scored the goals which gave the Irishmen their deserved four-nil victory.
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This page was last updated on the 24th February 2006