Friday, March 12, 2010

Vale Luciano Longo (1940-2010)

The former Juventus centre-half in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Luciano Longo, passed away in Hobart on Wednesday aged 69.

Luciano was the father of Dominic Longo, one of Tasmania’s best-known players who went on to play for the Joeys, the Young Socceroos, the Olyroos, Cercle Brugge in Belgium, and Marconi in the NSL.

Luciano was a commanding figure on and off the football pitch and he was synonymous with Juventus during those two decades.

He was of large stature and was powerful in the air, but a gentle man off the pitch.

In 1959, he was selected for Tasmania against the visiting Scottish club, Heart of Midlothian, but injury prevented him from playing.

Hearts beat Tasmania 10-0 before a crowd of 3,000 at North Hobart Oval.

The ‘gentle giant’ was also a Southern Tasmanian representative when South won the round-robin series in 1961 against the North and the North-West.

South beat North-West 6-0 in the semi-final and then downed North 5-0 in the final.

Longo was also a member of the 1961 Juventus team that withdrew from the association and played against Launceston Juventus on alternate weekends at what is now Queens Walk in a competition involving the State’s two Italian clubs.

Juventus eventually rejoined the association.

Luciano was again selected for the South in 1963 and they won the intrastate series by overcoming North-West 3-0 and the North 2-1 in the final at South Hobart.

Longo captained Juventus in 1963 when the title was decided on the last day. With one round remaining, Hobart Rangers had 28 points and Olympia and Juventus were level on 26 points in second and third places, respectively.

Rangers only needed a draw against Juventus in the final game to win consecutive titles. But, Juventus beat Rangers 3-2, while Olympia beat Wayatinah 4-0.

That meant Olympia and Juventus finished level on 29 points and superior goal-average gave Olympia the title.

It was the first time that any Tasmanian league title had been decided on goal average. [Note: Goal average is different to the current system that is used, namely goal-difference.]

I remember watching Luciano Longo being interviewed on the Channel Six (the precursor of WIN TV) sports show by Harry Ward on the Sunday afternoon and arguing passionately in favour of a play-off between Juventus and Olympia to decide the title.

He said that was how it was done in Italy if two teams finished level on points, as indeed it was.

But, his pleas fell on deaf ears. Tasmania tended to follow British practices and the title was Olympia’s.

Longo played for Tasmania against Victoria at Olympic Park in Melbourne before a crowd of 9,500 in 1964 and the Victorians won 7-1.

He missed out on selection later that year for Tasmania’s game against Western Australia at South Hobart, a match which Western Australia won 5-3.

The 900-strong Tasmanian home crowd booed their side off the field at the end in protest at the team selection and some late changes that had been made due to injuries.

That signified the end of an era and Longo retired from the game not so long after.

He will always be associated with Juventus, and remembered as the father of one of Tasmania’s greatest football exports, Dominic Longo, and he will be missed by the Italian and football communities.

The funeral will be at St Mary’s Cathedral at 10am on Monday.

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