The first Socceroos, their connection to Asia and the football standoff with England

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Before the Socceroos became champions of Asia in 2015, the Australian national team’s story began with a loss to New Zealand in 1922.

Author Trevor Thompson uncovers the stories of the first Socceroos and their earliest tours across Asia and the rest of the world. 

Playing For Australia starts with Thompson explaining how The (Australian) Football Association formed in Freemason’s Tavern during 1863 and the country’s first football match, a 3-1 defeat to New Zealand.

Although British immigrants helped the world game reach Australian shores, Thompson reveals the early Socceroos had an unlikely relationship with Chinese football.

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Thompson continues by describing how former FIFA vice president and Chinese football legend Lee Wai Tong furthered Australia’s 40-year partnership with Asian football. 

While Wai Tong’s contributions helped Australia form a solid football bond with China and other Asian countries, the early Socceroos most exciting moment came when football powerhouse’s England decided to tour the country in 1925.

Following the series against England, Thompson begins addressing the national side’s tours to the East Indies and Singapore, and Australia’s ideas to promote the game before the Olympic Games in 1928. 

Australia struggled to grow the game before the Olympics, but hope was on the horizon when former French footballer Maurice Vandendriessche started advocating for the country to play continental football in Europe.

As Australia’s reputation across Europe grew, Thompson explained that other Asian countries such as China and Japan were the first to break onto the world scene during the 1936 Olympics.

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While countries like Japan and China were emerging, Thompson revealed Australia was locked in a football standoff with England.

After uncovering what led to the hostility between the two nations, the book outlines the Dutch West Indies involvement in the 1939 World Cup and India’s first major football tour of Australia.

Thompson concludes by honouring Australia’s inaugural football stars and explains what direction the country should take next. 

Overall, Thompson does an excellent job of outlining the humble beginnings of Australian football and the national team’s strong links to Asia in the 1920s. 

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Even though Thompson gave a detailed account of the history of the early Socceroos, many of the book’s chapters are not in yearly order, which may leave readers feeling confused when jumping from era to era. 

Despite this minor inconvenience, Playing for Australia is a great read for any football fan as it gives readers a new perspective on the history of Australian football and pays tribute to some of the sport’s unsung heroes

Rating: 4/5

Feature image credit: Socceroos 

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Amir Daou
Bachelor of Sport, Health and Physical Activity and Bachelor of Media and Communications student at Flinders University. Writing intern covering the latest in Adelaide United news and matches. Sport is my passion and I'm excited to learn more about the industry during my time with The Football Sack.
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