Ange Postecoglou’s style as a coach was to keep the ball on the ground, keep possession and play an attacking, aggressive type of football. From the time he was a ball boy at South Melbourne, to playing youth then senior football, becoming club captain and eventually Australian national team coach, his father Jim Postecoglou’s influence was profound.
Last year, Neos Kosmos attended a fundraising event at which Ange was a guest speaker. And for almost an hour the audience was enthralled, as he told the story of how his father imprinted his love of football in him from an early age.
The event was hosted by the late Les Murray, and Postecoglou told the legendary broadcaster how his father was the biggest influence in his coaching career.
“There is only one reason why I love this game and I’m passionate about it from day one, and that was because it brought me closer to my father,” he said at the time.
When Ange and his family left Greece and came to Australia in 1970, he was five years old. Like many Greek migrants, the Postecoglou family were hoping to improve their way of life, but Ange doesn’t believe his father had that experience.
“Mum and Dad didn’t speak the language, didn’t know a soul in this country and there were no job prospects and nowhere to live,” he said.
“The traditional way of talking about it is that people came here for a better life – but my father, I’m convinced he hasn’t had a better life. He would have had a better life if he stayed at home surrounded by family and friends because whatever hardships he would have gone through – that support would have got him through. I think he came here to give myself and my sister a better life and an opportunity for a better life.”
Ange admitted that the difficulty in settling into a new country and culture made it difficult to connect with his father, until football entered into the equation.
“In the Greek community there were two places of worship,” he said.
“Church on Sunday morning, and Middle Park watching South Melbourne Hellas on Sunday afternoon. My old man was not an overly religious kind of bloke, so his worship came that afternoon. When I would drive to the ground with him – and this is me six or seven years old – he literally walked through those gates and he would change. All of a sudden, his shoulders would just relax, he’d be animated, passionate, talking to people and feeling really comfortable. Abusing the referees, abusing the coach, and I just wanted to be part of that. I just thought this was unbelievable, I want to get close to this.”
At the time that Ange was growing up in Australia, football was not a popular sport and in Melbourne, cricket and AFL ruled. Like the many youngsters living in Melbourne, Ange loved to play cricket, and on one occasion even convinced his father to go to a test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
“So, we went in the morning and it was Australia versus England and they were batting first,” he said.
“And literally there was about ten runs in two hours, and my old man is going, ‘what am I doing here?’ The only solace we had was back then you could smoke [in the stadium]. My dad was a smoker and at one stage he went to light up and he dropped his lighter. As he went down to pick it up, the only wicket of the day fell. So he looked and he said, ‘what happened?’ I said, ‘we got a wicket, Dad!’ Then he went, ‘that’s it, we are going home.'”
With cricket not offering a bonding opportunity, Ange found a way to get close to his dad through football and his father recognised his passion for the sport as well.
“He really encouraged me to play the game and that is where the seed and the passion for football grew in me,” he said.
“They are still the best memories I have growing up; going to training with dad and going to games with my dad. I wanted to know everything about the game. If my dad was sitting there talking about tactics with the other fathers I wouldn’t be outside with the other kids I would be sitting there listening. That’s what gave me a glimpse into my father and gave me that bond.”
Ange would go on to win two championships as a player and two championships as coach at South Melbourne. And after Jim Postecoglou’s passing the club recognised the influence he had on his son through the statement below:
“Jim was a familiar face to the South family for four decades watching his son progress through the juniors all the way through to captaining and coaching the first team to national championships. It has been well documented by Ange that Jim was a huge influence on both his playing and coaching career.”
On behalf of the club, South Melbourne president Leo Athanasakis added that “the Postecoglou family has been a family we were and still are very proud to be associated with and we were all devastated when told of Jim’s passing. Our thoughts are with Ange’s family and friends at this terrible time.”
One of the most touching moments Ange revealed about the time he spent with his father was being woken up in the early hours of the morning to watch football on television.
“The best memories I have is when you are a kid and you are fast asleep and you get a nudge on the shoulder and you know it’s the middle of the night and you kind of know that’s my dad and there is a game on TV,” he said.
“You get up and you are sitting on the couch and it’s just you and your dad and you think like the whole world is asleep and you are just watching the game from your living room and the Socceroos are on.
“I probably knew back then that football was my cause. I thought coaching was the way I wanted to do it and that’s where the passion for wanting to know everything about the game came from.”
Ange’s greatest moment as national team coach occurred in 2015, when he led the Socceroos to the Asian Cup title on home soil. After leading towards the end of the match, South Korea equalised and the game went into extra time. Two of Postecoglou’s substitutes, Tomi Juric and James Troisi, combined to score the match-winning goal.
In his book Changing the Game, Ange revealed his father was a hard taskmaster, despite the historic win.
“Look Dad, here’s the Asian Cup,” he wrote.
“And what does he say? ‘Yeah, but if you made a better substitution you wouldn’t have needed extra time.'”
Writing on the Players Voice website this week, Ange paid tribute to his father.
“Losing my dad is the hardest thing I have had to face. When he passed, I told him I loved him and then he said the three words that were more significant to us both. ‘Κάτω η μπάλα’ (Keep the ball down) Dad’.
“I will miss him.”