The legendary Rale Rasic, Australia’s first Socceroos World Cup Coach was in Newcastle over the weekend, invited to a coaching clinic by Northern NSW NPL side Valentine Eleebana FC.
Rale Rasic led the Socceroos to the 1974 World Cup in West Germany at a time when the World Cup finals were contested by 16 finalists, compared to 32 of today, and when Australian soccer players all played locally and were part-timers!
Rasic immigrated to Australia in 1962, played football in the Victorian league and was appointed national coach in 1970 at just 26 years of age. He coached Australia in 58 international matches from 1970 to 1974 and masterminded Australia’s qualification and participation at the 1974 FIFA World Cup.
In 1974 Rasic was listed among the top 34 coaches in the world by German Soccer expert Fritz Hack and in 1977 and 1987 he was voted the national league coach of the year. In 1989 he was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame and in 2004 was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to soccer as a player, a coach and administrator.
This was the background of the now 87-year-old Rale who took time out to speak to U18s Newcastle Jets player George Tsamouras and myself about his illustrious football journey. In the half hour spent, we covered the two Newcastle players, Ray Baartz and Col Curran who were part of the 1974 squad, his memory of meeting with the legendary captain of Brazil, Socrates, as well as memories of the highs and lows of 51 years of service to Australia!
We wish Rale a happy stay in Newcastle and hope he returns to us again in the future. It was an absolute honour to have met this icon of Australian football.
Source: Tom Tsamouras