Former Australia Prime Minister John Howard was among the 700-strong crowd to celebrate the anniversary of Australia's FIFA World Cup qualification in 2005, and to farewell outgoing Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy.
By
Matthew Connellan

17 Nov 2015 - 8:16 AM  UPDATED 17 Nov 2015 - 4:18 PM

It was all glitz and glamour at the black tie event, which started on the pitch for drinks and a presentation of a number of the 2005 Socceroos, including John Aloisi, Mark Bresciano, Vince Grella, Tony Popovic, Josip Skoko, Stan Lazaridis, Zeljko Kalac, Jason Culina, Brett Emerton, Michael Thwaite and Ante Covic. 

Legendary coach Guus Hiddink also returned to Australia for the first time in a decade to attend the dinner.

The event moved inside for a formal dinner, where Aloisi, Emerton, Bresciano and Grella joined in a Q&A session, before Hiddink entertained the crowd with his trademark humour.

Former PM Howard paid tribute to Lowy, who today ends his 12-year tenure as FFA chairman.

"He has been without question one of the ornaments of the Australian business community for decades," Howard said.

"He is a person who has displayed enormous passion for everthing he's done. 

"There was something to do with some financial arrangements, the government was to provide, I forget the exact figures but they don't matter, the proportionalities do.

"We were to provide some $15 million, $9 million as a grant, $6 million as a loan, and he said: 'John, you won't get that loan back, you understand that don't you?'.

"So I said to my Treasurer Peter Costello, I wouldn't bet the surplus on that $6 million! But the rest, as they say, is history."

Howard said football's progress in the past decade, which includes FIFA World Cup qualifications in 2006, 2010 and 2014, as well as the development of the A-League, wouldn't have been possible without this "remarkable man".

"He's just given so much. The passion he brought to his role, the understanding of the game... to attend a football match with Frank Lowy is to understand the highs and lows of a really passionate sports follower, he lives and and breathes every moment of every game that he follows," Howard said. 

"Frank, you have led from the very beginning. I hope tonight is a small demonstration to you, Frank, of the affection in which you are held by many followers of this beautiful world game."