South Melbourne FC celebrated half a century of Australian sporting history on Saturday at its 50th Anniversary Gala. The dazzling sold-out event at Crown’s Palladium was hosted by ‘Australia’s face of football’, Les Murray.
<p>Those who know their football will tell you that the likes of Charlie Egan, Oscar Crino, Doug Brown and Alan Davidson would have stood up and taught any current Socceroo a thing or too about flamboyant attacking football and no-nonsense defence. Arguably the biggest name in world sport to have ever been associated with an Australian entity, Ferenc Puskas took over South Melbourne in 1989/90 enjoying immediate success.</p>
The Gala Ball assembled some of Australia’s brightest football talents as South Melbourne FC paid tribute to its founding fathers, its heroes and its history.
From the extraordinary video clips to the funny and often emotional anecdotes, the event showcased the contributions of this legendary club to Australian football and the Greek Australian and broader community.
Club legends and icons stood side by side creating a tableau of sporting history as the club inducted the championship winning squads into its Hall Of Fame.
Beginning with the five State championships of the 60s, Les Murray worked through to the late 90s back-to-back squads, which undoubtedly became the envy of Australian football, and through to the present. The attendees of the 50th Anniversary function will understand the at times emotionally overwhelming sensation generated by the video tributes. Few clubs around the world can boast a roster of talent such as former AEK and Greek international superstar Kostas Nestoridis.
Mr. Nestoridis, via video, expressed his love for the club and his joy when playing in Melbourne in the mid-60s. Opening with anecdotes and the revelation that a South Melbourne game was Les Murray’s first ever foray into commentary, Murray introduced the club’s president Leo Athanasakis.
Mr. Athanasakis paid tribute to the previous boards and presidents such as the late Theo Marmaras (1959-69, 1971) and Sam Papasavas (1972-82) before announcing to the crowd the Memorandum of Understanding South recently signed with the State government. The deal will see the redevelopment of South’s Bob Jane Stadium and provide a lifeline for the future of the club. Mr. Athanasakis stated that it will allow South to call Lakeside home for the subsequent 40 years and beyond.
The State Labour Member for Albert Park, Martin Foley, read out a letter of congratulations from the Premier of Victoria, John Brumby, who noted South’s contribution to the sporting landscape including the 49 Socceroos who have come from the club. Chairman of South Melbourne, Nick Galatas further illustrated the contribution of South’s Socceroos, before introducing the key administrators of South’s history including both Mr. Marmaras and Mr. Papasavas along with Leo Anezakis (1983-84) and George Vasilopoulos (1990-01). Mr. Anezakis presided over Hellas’ first National Champions in 1984 and was described by Mr. Galatas as “a man of great integrity and self-sacrifice”.
Mr. Vasilopoulos undoubtedly steered the club through its most successful period, including the dizzying heights of the back-to-back National Championships in 1997/98 and 1998/99. The main element of the evening, the 50th Anniversary Hall Of Fame presentations commenced with an incredible collection of rare photographs in tribute to the Champions of the 1960s. Many of these photographs were procured from personal collections and have scarcely been seen in public. Olga Lapsis, daughter of the Mr. Marmaras, evidently touched by the presentation, accepted the award on behalf of her late father.
John Maragritis, speaking in Greek, underscored for the audience the importance of South Melbourne to the football public and importantly, to the Greek immigrants who flocked to see Hellas in action in the early days of the club. He emphasised the club’s contribution to the settlement and integration of post war Greek migrants to Australia. Legend Jimmy Armstrong then thanked the supporters for dedicating their time to the club.
He stood proud as the legends of the triple 1970s championships were honoured with their induction into the Hall Of Fame. Incredible rare footage and photos again thrilled the fans and former players alike at the Gala. As the presentations moved chronologically into the 1980’s, the great 1984 side were presented to the 700 attendees.
Those who know their football will tell you that the likes of Charlie Egan, Oscar Crino, Doug Brown and Alan Davidson would have stood up and taught any current Socceroo a thing or too about flamboyant attacking football and no-nonsense defence. Arguably the biggest name in world sport to have ever been associated with an Australian entity, Ferenc Puskas took over South Melbourne in 1989/90 enjoying immediate success.
Puskas won the 1991 National Championship with emerging stars such as Ange Postecoglou, Paul Trimboli, Peter Tsolakis and Bruce MacLaren. Postecoglou and Mr Vasilopoulos recounted the glory days of 1991 with the late Puskas, along with the back-to-back titles in the late 90s and that famous trip to Brazil when South Melbourne represented all of Australia in the FIFA World Club Championships.
Postecoglou recalled South Melbourne being drawn alongside Manchester United (and being pleased with the draw!) and highlighted the commitment of Mr Vasilopoulos to that great era of Hellas history.
Club President between 2002-04, Peter Mitrakas paid tribute to the unheralded administrators and board members who tirelessly worked during darker days of the club, when debt crippled the previously high-flying Hellas.
As South rebounded into the Victorian Premier League (where the club continues to play today), John Anastasiadis (a legend of the late 90s squads) led the club to the 2006 Victorian Premier League title and introduced his own Championship squad including current stars Ramazan Tavsancioglou and Fernando De Moraes. South Melbourne’s rich vein of history will stand the test of time. It is a club forever etched in the annals of sporting history.
As the club and Australian football overall move into what seems an uncertain future, supporters past and present, were urged by the presenters to reignite their support of South Melbourne.