Wednesday, December 18, 2019

1976 was a vintage year for Tassie football

Saturday, 20 March 1976 was a big day for football in southern Tasmania.

The Southern Tasmanian representative team played the visiting Toronto Metros Croatia from Canada at Grove Road at 3.30pm.

The Canadian outfit had won that year’s North American title and on the way to that honour had beaten Pele’s New York Cosmos 4-0.

They had eight internationals in their squad and the omens were not good for the Tasmanians.

The home side would have been grateful that the visitors did not bring their world-famous Portuguese attacker Eusebio on the Australian tour.

The Tasmanian game was organised by the late Michael Furjanic, who was secretary of Croatia Glenorchy at the time and a mover-and-shaker on the Australian Croatian Soccer Tournament committee.

Furjanic had frequently visited Canada and persuaded the club to include Tasmania on their tour.

The visiting squad were given a civic reception in Glenorchy and attended a banquet at the Granada Tavern, while a visit to Port Arthur was also on the agenda, as was attendance at the Military Tattoo in Hobart.

To reduce costs, the visiting players were billeted by Croatian families in Hobart.

The Toronto Metros Croatia squad was:  Zeljko Bilecki, Jack Brand, Damir Sutevski, Ted Polak, Miralem Fazlic, Mladen Cukon, Ernest Major, Paul D’Agostino, Robert Iarusci, Carmine Marcantonio, Gene Strenicer (capt), Zdravko Juricko, Bruno Pilas, Nick Sevatopoulos, Ivair Ferreira, Roberto Vieri, Pat Ercole, Robert Gemert, A Pavelic, M Galovic, M Petrovic, P Lucic, V Saric, G Mikan.  Coach: I Markovic.

Some of the more notable players were Roberto Vieri, who had 11 Italian caps, and Ivair Ferreira, a Brazilian left-winger who, as it turned out, terrorised the local defenders with his speed and ploy of switching wings.

Gene Strenicer captained the squad, while Zeljko Bilecki was the best goalkeeper in the North American League.

As it turned out, Vieri and Strenicer did not play because of injury.

Coach Ivan Markovic was in his 19th year as a coach and during his career he also coached Dynamo Zagreb and the Yugoslav Olympic team.

Englishman Dennis Ford, who was Tasmania’s director of coaching at the time, coached the Southern Tasmanian team.  He also coached Tasmania against Sunderland that year before taking up a coaching position in Queensland before the year was out.

The Southern Tasmanian squad was:  Tommy Wright (capt), Eddie Puclin, Dudley Hall, Andy Collins, Chris Collins, Wolfgang Stuetzel, Don Farmery, Jack Dilba, John Dilba, Harry Stewart, Peter Lynell, Domenic Fraraccio, John Genovesi, Alistair Hales, David Smith, John Howlin.  Coach:  Dennis Ford.

Toronto Metros Croatia won the game 3-0 with three second-half goals in 11 minutes.

Once they were ahead 3-0,  coach Markovic was heard to yell out to his Croatian team-members in Croatian:  “That’s the game, boys.  Now turn it on for the spectators.”

And they did.  Gordon Burnett, The Mercury soccer reporter at the time wrote:  “The visitors…played the short-passing game to near perfection, at times having seven men in attack.”

Bruno Pilas opened the scoring in the 54th minute and Robert Gemert made it 2-0 in the 62nd minute.

Zdravko Juricko completed the scoring in the 65th minute after a top-speed attack involving seven players.

The Tasmanians gave it 100 per cent, but just weren’t good enough.

David Smith made an excellent debut at centre-half in place of the injured Dudley Hall, while Harry Stewart and Chris Collins put in good shifts.

Burnett wrote:  “Wolfgang Stuetzel saved off the goal-line on one occasion.  The reliable Eddie Puclin was fortunate in goal in that Metros’ forwards often held on to the ball too long or were off target with their shots.

“The attack, with Don Farmery in the centre and Johnny Genovesi and Domenic Fraraccio on the wings, played themselves into the ground without the needed support.”

Alistair Hales showed neat skills and he set up Tommy Wright for a shot that dipped narrowly over the bar.

One David Smith shot had keeper Zeljko Bilecki fumbling and scrambling to save.

Later in the year, Sunderland beat Tasmania 5-0 at Grove Road.

It was a marvellous year for football fans.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks Walter.

Just worked out that Roberto Vieri is former Italian superstar , Christian's father.

I always thought it was a shame FFA didn't try to get Christian down as an -League marquee player.