I loved the biography of Johnny Warren on SBS last night. I have been aware of him as a soccer pundit but I knew nothing about his playing career. He was a bit of a ladies man as well. If this had been an Aussie Rules doco you can bet this would have been pushed to the fore, but here it was only evident because many of the people speaking warmly but honestly about him were captioned "ex de-facto wife" "ex-wife" and "girlfriend".
He was captain of the national soccer team in 1970, when we missed out on the World Cup by losing to North Korea. Before the 1974 cup he suffered a knee injury, and wasn't expected ever to come back. He was replaced as captain. He fought his way back from the injury to be selected again, and went to West Germany for the 1974 cup. He broke a bone in his foot in the first game and that was it.
He dedicated himself to spreading the word about soccer throughout Australia. I started playing in 1977. Without knowing it I probably benefited a lot from his efforts to improve standards of skills, fitness and coaching, and also to spread the game beyond its immigrant base in this country.
Johnny contracted lung cancer in 2002 and died in late 2004, six months too soon to see us qualify for this World Cup. It was very emotional to see the footage again of that match against Uruguay in Sydney the tribute to Johnny that preceded it, and see his family and friends there so overwhelmed by it all.
Good on you Johnny Warren.