Australian football pioneer Rale Rasic, the first coach to take the Socceroos to a World Cup, has died, aged 87.
Rasic, a Sport Australia Hall of Fame member, is renowned as among the nation’s most influential football identities.
The Bosnian-born Rasic, who played in Yugoslavia’s first division, came to Australia in 1962. Just eight years later, he was appointed as Australia’s coach when aged 34.
In 1974, Rasic led Australia to the World Cup where the Socceroos were beaten by East Germany 2-0, lost to eventual champions West Germany 3-0 and then drew 0-0 with Chile.
Rasic was dumped as coach after the cup, saying the nation’s football hierarchy believed he wasn’t a “real Aussie.”
“They took from me something that I was doing better than anyone else,” he said. “I was a true-blue Aussie and nobody can deny that. I taught the players how to sing the national anthem.”
He remained in contact with the 1974 squad for the rest of his life.
“They are part of my family … I certainly helped them realise their dreams but they also made me who I am with their devotion, commitment and loyalty,” he said.
Asked what the Socceroos, past and present, meant to him, he told SBS two years ago: “Very easy question and I have a simple answer: the Socceroos and the green and gold jersey are my life.”
Rasic’s coaching career included stints at Melbourne Hungaria, St George, Marconi Stallions, Pan Hellenic, Adelaide City, Blacktown City, South Melbourne, APIA Leichhardt, Canterbury-Marrickville, Rockdale Ilinden, Fairfield Bulls and Canberra Cosmos.
In 2004, Rasic was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to soccer as a player, coach and administrator.