Thursday, June 8, 2023

Vale Zvonimir 'Rale' Rasic (26/12/1935 - 08/06/2023)

Photo:  Rale Rasic (left) with my good mate, former Olympia goalkeeper Jim Vafakos, at Gosford, NSW, after a Central Coast Mariners v Sydney FC game in mid December 2022. 

Zvonimir ‘Rale’ Rasic, the coach who took Australia to a World Cup for the first time, passed away in Sydney today aged 87.

It was to the 1974 World Cup in West Germany and Australia was drawn in a tough group with West Germany, East Germany and Chile.

It was a fantastic achievement as only 16 countries contested the finals in those days.

Australia lost 3-0 to West Germany, 2-0 to East Germany and drew 0-0 with Chile.  It meant an early flight home. But Rale stayed on to watch the rest of the tournament and to do some media work.

Australia had qualified after a torturous qualifying campaign that involved long flights and hectic schedules.

The Socceroos qualified by beating South Korea 1-0 in a play-off in Hong Kong.

And, Australia’s players were all part-timers and at least one lost his job because he had to be absent for a while.

Rale was born in the former Yugoslavia in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina and became an orphan at a young age.

He used to tell me how tough his life was but how living in an orphanage instilled in him a strong sense of discipline that stayed with his for his whole life.

He played in Yugoslavia from 1952 until 1962, when he was selected for the Yugoslavia Under-21 side.

He migrated to Australia to join NSL club Footscray JUST in Melbourne in 1962 and stayed with them until 1969, although he did voluntarily return to Jugoslavia during this period to do his two-year national service in the army.

He became Australia’s national coach in 1969 but was dismissed in controversial circumstances by Sir Arthur George, the president of the Australian Soccer Federation, after taking the Socceroos to the 1974 World Cup.

He coached at club level while national coach and coached at club level for many years (1970 to 1999) with Melbourne Hungaria, St George, Marconi Stallions, Pan Hellenic, Adelaide City, Blacktown City, South Melbourne Hellas, APIA Leichhardt, Canterbury-Marickville, Rockdale-Ilinden, Fairfeld Bulls and Canberra Cosmos.

He was technical director of Marconi Stallions from 2002 to 2003.

He maintained his interest and work in football after 2003 and made many trips to Germany and Brazil right up until his death.

I first met Rale at the 1981 International Coaches’ convention in Sydney, held in conjunction with the 1981 Under-20 World Cup.

He coached New South Wales against Tasmania in that momentous match on 5 June 1994 at South Hobart.

Tasmania led 4-1 with less than 30 minutes left, whereupon Rasic introduced substitute Vlado Zoric.  Rod Brown netted to make it 4-2 and Zoric then promptly scored a hat-trick to make it 5-4 for NSW.

Rale and I would discuss that game for years afterwards and he would always have a chuckle about his substitution that altered the course of the match.

Rale was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1989 and was awarded the Australian Sports Medal and the Centenary Medal for ‘services to soccer’ in 2001.

He was inducted into the Football Australia Hall of Fame in 1999.

In 2004, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for ‘service to soccer as a player, coach and administrator’.

Rale only came to Tasmania two or three times and the last time, in the early 2000s, I remember we had lunch at Mure’s.  I took a photo of him afterwards at the Hobart wharf standing next to his green Mercedes with the number plate WC1974.  That photo was on film and I simply cannot find it.

We would have regular and long phone conversations, even up until early this year, and I will miss his analysis of football and great knowledge about the game.

My condolences go to Rale’s partner, Debra, on her loss, and that of the Australian and international football community.

Photo:  A recent photo of Rale Rasic (right) taken in Sydney .


Brian Young said...

Vale Rale Rasic. Condolences to your family.
You will always be fondly remembered as the first to take Australia to the World Cup.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this wonderful tribute and insight to Rale Rasic. The local soccer community is so fortunate to have your great regular contributions.

Brian Young said...

Hear, hear

Blaise said...

Walter, I was saddened to hear of Rale"s passing, I worked with and for him for several years in the Fairfield / Liverpool area running football camps and club trials. He was a great mentor for me as I developed as a coach, often attending Marconi and Melita Stadiums in the days of NSL discussing tactics and methods with luminaries like Manfred Schaefer and Dougie U. Rale also gave his time generously when I was TD in Ku-Ring-gai Assn. helping with courses that I presented on behalf of FootballNSW, he gave his football insights to many budding coaches.... all at no cost. Indeed he also did the same for me as Football Op manager for Defence Force Football where he attended presentation and awards dinner. He shall be missed by all of those who love and respect the game, he has lived and has written a glorious history. Bless him.