Football history hunt amid grand final fever

A museum is planned to record football's at-times turbulent development in Queensland.

(Transcript from World News Radio)

The Brisbane Roar will lay another milestone for Queensland football if it can win this Sunday's A-League grand final against the Western Sydney Wanderers.

If the Roar triumphs, it will have won the most grand finals in the A-League's short history.

But this year also marks the 130th year since the first recorded association game was played in the colony of Queensland.

And now a museum is planned to record the game's at-times turbulent development, from that first match by Scottish settlers to the post-war boom of ethnic clubs to the Roar's success.

The organisers, fearing many of the early history records and trophies have been lost, are appealing for help to find forgotten relics.

Stefan Armbruster reports.

"It was a great experience. It was played at the exhibition ground, 32,000 people, against some of the greats of Manchester United. Bobby Charleton and Denis Law and Nobby Stiles and Georgie Best ... they had a fantastic side. And it was a great experience."

Former Socceroo and long-time Queensland captain Gary Wilkins, a driving force behind the Brisbane Roar, well remembers his first state representative game in 1967.

"We performed reasonably well, but we have to remember we're talking about full-time professionals against coalminers, butchers, bakers, whatever. And though they beat us 6-nil, I think they were only half-paced."

Football was a very different game back then.

But if you go looking for its history in Queensland, there is little record of it.

Wilkins comes from what was traditionally the stronghold of the game, and it was not in Brisbane.

"Well, I was bred and born in Ipswich, and I'm proud to be an Ipswich boy. And there are many other great soccer players who have played for Queensland and Australia out of Ipswich. The 1956 Olympics, I think there was nine players from Ipswich in that representative side that played at the Olympic Games."

Clubs like the Blackstone Rovers, Bundamba Rangers and Dinmore Bushrats have now faded from memory.

"You have the likes of the Kitchings, Brian Vogler, Graham McMillan, Cliff Sander ... Oh, I could go on for ages. There's a list of wonderful footballers that have passed us now without any recognition really."

Last November at Brisbane's Perry Park, Wilkins gathered with some of the veterans of the game to do something about it.

Simon Boegheim is now the interim chairman of the Queensland Football History Project.

"There's very little information seems to be about. And everybody started researching. So there was a need to set up a central database so people can access the information, because a lot of clubs are getting to the jubilee stage -- 50 years, 60 years, 70 years, et cetera -- and they've tried to do their history, but it's very hard to get hold of the information."

South-east Queensland football historian Peter Eedy is also involved.

"The first soccer players were Scotsmen, mostly Scotsmen, who arrived here in the 1880s. And they set up the local football association in 1884 and commenced playing from that date."

This year in June will mark the 130th anniversary of the very first fixture match being played in Brisbane.

"It was played at what is now Raymond Park at Kangaroo Point, immediately behind the Pineapple Hotel, which is a bit of an uphill field, so it would have been a disadvantage for each team in each half. The game was played between Queens Park and St Andrews, and St Andrews won 7-nothing. And they had a reasonably large crowd of about a hundred people apparently."

For the first 50 years, the game it was played mainly by British migrants, with the greatest rivalry -- and, often, infighting -- between the Brisbane and Ipswich clubs.

From very early on, the game suffered competition from rugby union and then rugby league, which became Queensland's dominant code in the 1920s.

Association football almost ceased to be played.

Peter Eedy, the historian, says, after the Second World War, the game was given a new life, thanks to the many migrants arriving from all over Europe.

"I know, in the late 1960s, the ethnic clubs, local clubs, were drawing crowds of several thousand people to watch. But the two-edged sword was that a lot of Anglo folks saw soccer as 'wogball' because it was followed by European people -- Italians, Greeks, wherever they were from -- and they tended not to go there because they saw it as a bit of an ethnic game."

For a young Gary Wilkins, the matches to watch were between Azzuri, Hellenic, Budapest-Grovely, Germania, Polonia and the club he went on to join, Hollandia.

That club is known today as the Brisbane Roar.

"Well, the main one before Hollandia came along was always Hellenic and Azzuri, the Greeks and the Italians. And then we came along, and we started to take over as the top club then, so there were some great rivalries."

But, still, he admits the game struggled against the domination of rugby league.

"I don't know if you've read the book, Johnny Warren's book, "Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters". That's what we were all called for playing the game we love. People used to say -- the other codes were the main ones -- they called it 'wogball.' You had to be a bit funny to play it, so they reckoned."

Match-day violence between the clubs hurt, too, and, in attempt to broaden its appeal, the Queensland Soccer Federation made the teams drop their ethnic names in 1973.

It marked the start of what has evolved into today's league.

The Queensland Football History Project, backed by Football Brisbane and Football Queensland, is looking to preserve the relics of this colourful history.

Historian Peter Eedy says, in the process, much of the history has been lost.

"I've made inquiries looking for trophies and various other things with some people who I do know, like the president of the Olympic club, the Greek club. And I have spoken with people at Brisbane City -- it was the former Azzuri club -- trying to track things down. But a lot of the stuff seems to have just disappeared. Whether it's gathering dust in the back of somebody's garage somewhere, I don't know. But, hopefully, with forming this history-project group, that will get more publicity, and people will start to come out of the woodwork and say, 'Hey, I've got this box of old stuff. You're welcome to it.'"

This Sunday's A-League grand final might provide more material if the Brisbane Roar defeat the Western Sydney Wanderers.

Gary Wilkins is hoping a historic outcome is coming.

"Yeah, well, it could be for the club, because no-one else in the A-League so far has won three grand finals. At the moment, we're equal with Melbourne Victory, I believe. They've won two of each, and we're sitting on two of each at the moment. And, hopefully, we can win on Sunday, and that will give us a nose in front, (which is) just fantastic."

Source World News Australia

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