Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The day a world football superstar came to KGV Park

I was saddened to read today of the passing of Dragoslav Sekularac, aged 81, one the finest footballers of the 1960s and 1970s.

Indeed, his performance for the former Yugoslavia at the World Cup in Chile in 1962 was outstanding.

The team, made up of Croatians, Serbians and players from the other republics of the former Yugoslavia, reached the semi-finals of the 1962 World Cup, where they were beaten by eventual finalists Czechoslovakia (a country that was also eventually broken up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia).

They also lost the third-place match 1-0 to hosts Chile, but Sekularac was the player of the tournament.

He was described as the ‘Maradona’ of the 1962 World Cup.  Brian Glanville, the noted English football writer, described his manner of play thus:  “He would beat an opponent with nonchalant ease, almost as if it were a tiresome necessity.”

They were the days when football was, amongst other things, fun to watch.  Sekularac, like the great Brazilian, Garrincha, would sometimes beat an opponent and then come back and do it again.  It drove the fans into ecstasy.

The reason I am writing this is because Sekularac had a link with Tasmania and Australia and I was fortunate enough to meet him and interview him.

He played for Yugoslavia at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 and he had two stints as an NSL coach in Australia, first with Footscray JUST in 1986 and 1987, and again in 1992-93 with Heidelberg United.

It was in 1993 that be brought Heidelberg to Tasmania to play the State team at KGV Park.

Heidelberg won 3-0 and they also won the NSL Cup that year on the national stage.  Tasmania’s David Clarkson, who began his career with Rapid and Hobart Juventus, was in the Heidelberg team.

The Tasmanian squad for that friendly, coached by Alex MacDonald, was:  Neil Connell, Andrew Joseph, Brett Murtagh, Wayne Boyd, John ‘Snow’ Compagne, Craig Pitt, Scott Young, David Stoddart, Ian Parker, Tommy McGinn, Anthony Guilbert, Bob Smith, Frank Genovesi, Roger Mies, David Meldrum and Carlo Ambrosino.

I approached Sekularac after the game as he stood under the steps leading up into the KGV Park grandstand (nearest the administration building) and near the door to a change room.

He was affable and talkative (he was fluent in English, Spanish and Portugese, apart from his native Serbian) and I asked him a question I had always wanted to ask of a superstar footballer of the past.

I asked him whether he was envious of the modern footballing superstars who earned millions.

He said he wasn’t, and he compared his situation to that of former great artists or painters whose work was not always appreciated nor given full recognition in their lifetime, but whose works made millions for someone else after their death.  He shrugged off the apparent injustice with words to the effect that, 'That's life'.

It didn’t surprise me, therefore, that his nicknames included “The Artist” and “The Magician”.

Indeed, at the 1962 World Cup, Pele was reputed to have asked him if he had really been born in Brazil rather than Yugoslavia and he soon acquired the nickname of “The Brazilian”.

Short in stature, Sekularac was renowned for having a quick temper and this often got him into trouble.

While playing for Red Star Belgrade, he was suspended for 18 months for assaulting a referee. He also received a lengthy suspension for deliberately breaking an opponent’s leg.

On another occasion, officials had to prevent him from getting to a referee after a match, but he still received a hefty suspension.

I guess even geniuses have feet of clay at times.

Incidentally, Tasmania played four other friendlies in 1993.

They lost 3-0 at North Hobart to Japanese club Nagoya Grampus Eight, complete with Gary Lineker, 6-0 to South Melbourne Hellas at Valley Road in Devonport, 6-1 to South Melbourne Hellas at KGV Park, and 2-1 to Victoria at KGV Park.

The Tasmanian squad for the South Melbourne and Victoria games was:  Neil Connell, Andrew Joseph, Brett Murtagh, Wayne Boyd, John ‘Snow’ Compagne, David Stoddart, Frank Genovesi, Ian Parker, Tommy McGinn, Anthony Guilbert, Romeo Frediani, David Meldrum, Bob Smith, Tom Huisgloot and Scott Young.


Anonymous said...

Hi walter any friendly games on this weekend

Walter said...

I don't know of any here, but I do know South Hobart are playing Pascoe Vale in Melbourne.

Anonymous said...

Beachside vs Nelson @ KGV 13/01 4pm
Beachside vs Clarence @ KGV 16/01 7pm