From World Cups and FIFA bans to the Socceroos and Bertie: the Dutch & Australian football

 

(This piece is jointly authored with Dutch football writer, Roberto Pennino).

 

Mooy – or mooi – translates as ‘beautiful’ in Dutch.  And few would dispute the beauty of Aaron Mooy’s game.  Mooy has a Dutch-Australian pedigree: his grandfather came here in the 1950s, part of the great postwar migration wave that saw more than two million Europeans settle in Australia, including one hundred and sixty thousand from the Netherlands.     

 

While not as obvious an influence as Croatian, Greek, English and Italian migrants on Australian football, nevertheless the Dutch have made a considerable contribution to the game, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s when more than twenty Dutch teams formed across the country.  Here is an insight into some of that oranje-flavour added to Australian football in that period.        

 

Jan van Hoboken landed in Melbourne from the Dutch East Indies in 1948.  A shrewd businessman – amongst other enterprises he was the first to import Adidas boots into Australia –  Van Hoboken was also a keen football enthusiast and formed Melbourne’s first Dutch side in mid-1953.  Known briefly as KNVB after the Dutch football association, the club soon adopted the name Wilhelmina DSC (Dutch Soccer Club).  By this time Dutch teams were established in Perth (the Windmills), Hobart (Hollandia) and Sydney (Sydney Austral).

 

Wilhelmina started the 1954 season playing in the 4th Division, the lowest league in metropolitan Melbourne; by season’s end they were undefeated and so went through to the Third Division for the 1955 season. Another undefeated season followed; the side was promoted to the Second Division for 1956.

 

Near the start of that season a player arrived from the Netherlands to join Wilhelmina’s already imposing squad. He would soon leave a mark on the team and eventually, on the broader game in Australia.

 

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Michel ‘Sjel’ de Bruyckere was born in North Brabant and debuted for local side, Willem II, in 1950.  It proved timely for De Bruyckere and the Tricolores: the club won two national titles – in 1952 and 1955 – with Sjel playing a pivotal role in the side’s formidable attack.

 

De Bruyckere debuted for the Netherlands – Oranje – in 1954, scoring a goal in a 3-4 loss to Belgium.  He then became a fixture in the national side, one of the Big Five from Willem II who played together for Holland in this period.  ‘Holland’s most feared vanguard,’ as the Dutch football journal, Revue, described them at the time.

 

Undoubtedly gifted, tough and fearless, De Bruyckere also had a reputation as a rough player at times.  And he could be difficult off the pitch.  ‘Not everyone could get along with him, not everyone appreciated his tricks,’ according to Jan van Roessel, Willem II team mate, and fellow Dutch international.

 

In April 1956, straight after his seventh international, De Bruyckere was offered a huge package by Swiss club Lugano to join them, including 150,000 guilders, a house by a lake and a car.  But Willem II officials refused to release him.  Upset, De Bruyckere left for Australia within days.

 

He arrived in Melbourne, his football prowess having preceeded him.  Van Hoboken often arranged jobs, affordable housing and even cars for players he favoured. De Bruckyere was one of them and within a few weeks he was playing for Wilhelmina.

 

De Bruckyere’s class shone through immediately: just two months after arriving he was playing for the Victorian State side against arch-rivals New South Wales. And in June he and his Wilhelmina teammates swapped one set of orange tops for another, becoming the Holland side for the local World Cup series, which that year featured 16 ‘nations’ in a knockout format.

 

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One unique feature of Australian football in this period were ‘international’ tournaments and ‘world cups’, which became popular in various parts of the country. These contests were held separate from the main club competitions, with players selected to represent their country of birth in knockout competitions.  Players could be chosen from any club side but for the most part the different ‘national’ sides in the local competitions simply transformed into, say, Holland, Italy or Yugoslavia for the ‘international’ matches.

 

It was in Melbourne that the international tournament concept embedded itself in the city’s football calendar. Matches were traditionally played on a Sunday, to avoid clashing with regular season games played on Saturdays.  Over twelve years – 1950 to 1961 – up to eighteen nations competed in the local competition, dubbed the ‘Laidlaw World Cup’ after D.H. Laidlaw, a prominent supporter of the game, who donated a trophy to the winning Yugoslavia side in 1950.

 

For the 1956 series Oranje began their campaign with a 1-0 win over Scotland followed by a 5-0 defeat of Czechoslovakia. The semi-final against Poland was a tight affair but again the Dutch team triumphed (3-2). A World Cup Final now loomed, a first for the Dutch. Their opponent, the Azzurri, overcame Israel (4-3) and Croatia (4-0) in the minor rounds before defeating Australia in the other semi-final (3-2).

 

Italy had overwhelmed the Dutch in the 1955 semi-finals, and then went on to smash the Czechs 6-1 in front of nearly 10,000 fans to claim their first World Cup title. But one year later Holland were a stronger side with De Bruckyere’s presence and skill, and went into the 1956 Final as favourites.

 

The match took place in mid October, five weeks before the start of the 1956 Olympics. With Italy traditionally a big drawing side, several thousand supporters crammed into Murphy Reserve in Port Melbourne to see the match, the last game of the season. Before kick-off, Holland captain Tom Olifiers received the Karel Roubal Trophy for the best and fairest player of the World Cup tournament.

 

Holland dominated possession in the first half though it took forty minutes before the Italian defence finally cracked; the Dutch went to the break with a 1-0 lead. The second half saw the Azzurri split wide open: it was soon 5-0 to Holland, until a late goal gave Italy some scoreboard solace. Oranje had won their first World Cup! For Italy it was their third defeat in five years.

 

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By the time of the next Oranje appearance in a Laidlaw World Cup Final in 1961, football in Melbourne and the rest of Australia, was undergoing major changes and disruption.  And the two big Dutch clubs, Sydney Austral and Wilhelmina, were in the thick of this revolution.

 

In Sydney tensions had been building for several seasons between the administrators of the NSW Soccer Football Association, an amateur body, and ‘national’ sides over gate takings, payments to players, player transfers and difficulties  migrant-based clubs faced getting into the top divisions due to rules insisting teams had to be aligned to a district.

 

In 1957 Sydney Austral, led by astute Dutch Jew, Harry Lakmaker, an Auschwitz survivor, along with several ‘national’ and district sides, broke away from the Association to form a new governing body, the NSW Federation of Soccer Clubs.

 

The Federation, with Lakmaker as  Treasurer, established a rival competition in opposition to the official Association. It gave control of the competition to clubs, let them retain gate takings, brought in player payments and allowed any club, district or ‘national’, to play at the top levels. Within a couple of seasons this alternative structure prevailed over the old amateur Association model, inspiring similar club-controlled, professional competitions to become the standard across Australia.

 

Sydney Austral also played a pivotal role in another tumultous affair during this period, one which saw Australia banned by FIFA for four years.

 

From 1957 three Sydney clubs, Prague, Hakoah and Sydney Austral, and two Melbourne sides, Wilhelmina, and Hakoah, began importing players from clubs in Austria, the Netherlands and later, Israel.  With an appealing lifestyle and significant money on offer, thirty four players soon moved to Australia. Thirteen of them went to one or other of the two Dutch sides.

 

The five Australian clubs refused to pay any transfer fees to Dutch and Austrian clubs, arguing the players had come as migrants, not footballers, and therefore they didn’t need to pay fees. The European clubs were furious and took the issue to FIFA.

 

In 1959 FIFA banned Australia from all international competitions and associations until the clubs agreed to pay transfer fees. FIFA General Secretary, Helmut Kaser, told the Australians: ‘It would be an error on your side to believe that only Australia has immigrants. The Austrian and Dutch players – to mention only those – did not immigrate to Australia and incidentally become members of a football club. On the contrary, you wanted to recruit good footballers in Europe and made them look like immigrants.’

 

Tony Noy, a talented Wilhelmina player, got tangled up in both sides of the FIFA dispute. Noy had migrated to Australia from Gennep in the east of the Netherlands as an eighteen year old with his family and was soon playing in the Melbourne competition, first with Slavia, and then with Wilhelmina, enticed there by Van Hoboken with the promise of a job for his father and cheap housing for his family.

 

Noy was a key member of Wilhelmina’s 1958 Dockerty Cup winning side against Juventus (played in front of a then record crowd of 16,000 at Olympic Park), and the 1959 First Division title winning team. He was with Wilhelmina again in 1960 as the powerful Dutch side looked to retain the title. The club finished fourth.

 

At the end of the season Noy headed to Holland to try out with Vitesse Arnhem. But the FIFA ban meant he couldn’t play senior professional football and wasn’t permitted to be paid for playing anywhere in the country.  So Noy got to work for Van Hoboken, who arranged a car and a retainer to help him recruit Dutch players for Wilhelmina.

 

Noy placed notices in local newspapers and word soon spread of what he was up to.  At one point he tried to meet Rapid JC player Leo Beerendonk at training but a club official told Noy he wasn’t welcome and refused to admit him into the ground.

 

Around twenty players got in touch with Noy and six eventually returned with him in time for the start of the 1961 season. Rapid JC may have stopped Noy from getting into training but it didn’t prevent Beerendonk, who’d also played for the Dutch Military, leaving with him alongside two other Rapid JC players.  The six joined two Amsterdammers who Van Hoboken had lured over to Australia the previous season, one of which was Dick van Alphen, a young Dutch ‘B’ team representative.

 

The presence of the eight Dutch imports and quality players like Noy and captain-coach De Bruckyere, meant Wilhelmina once more challenged for the 1961 premiership but the team missed out on the title again, finishing the season in third spot.  The side did manage to win the knockout State Cup, defeating Maltese side, George Cross, 3-1.

 

As usual most of the Wilhelmina line-up that year exchanged one orange top for another to become the Holland side for the Laidlaw World Cup. In the earlier matches Holland knocked over Ukraine (4-0), England (2-0) and Scotland (2-0) to make the Final for the first time since 1956. Their opponent this time was Poland.

 

With a strong side under the captaincy of De Bruckyere, Holland went into the decider at Olympic Park as firm favourites but in a dour, defensive game Poland held out Oranje for 90 minutes before grabbing a late goal in extra time to claim the title 1-0. It ultimately proved to be the last Laidlaw World Cup, the Melbourne tournament superceded by club-based knockout competitions.

 

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In mid-1963, after more than a year of serious negotiations, Australia finally resumed its place in world football after the local Federation finally agreed to pay FIFA compensation for the player movements.

 

As for the Dutch football teams, most, including the once-prominent Sydney Austral, disappeared by the end of the 1960s, a consequence of the tapering off of Dutch migration to Australia and the rapid assimilation of the Dutch and their offspring into the broader Australian community.

 

Dozens of Dutch were selected for regional and state representative sides in the 1950s and 1960s and ten ended up playing for Australia in minor and major international fixtures. De Bruckyere was one. Another, Bill Westerveld, ex-VVV-Venlo, ex-Sydney Austral and ex-Wilhelmina, played for Australia – and New Zealand! Dick van Alphen finished with the most  international caps for a Dutchman, playing ten games for Australia (1967-1969).

 

Two Dutch players from the period, De Bruckyere and Bill Vrolyks, ex-Sydney Austral captain, went on to have long and prominent coaching careers and their significant contributions to football over several decades saw both named in the Football Federation of Australia’s Hall of Fame. Vrolyks was also awarded an Order of Australia for his services to football.  (Long-serving Sydney Hakoah and Socceroo physio, Piet van Ryn is the third Dutchie in the FFA Hall of Fame).

 

Of the more than twenty Dutch teams formed in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s a handful still continue to this day, each proud of their oranje roots. The Windmills, founded in 1950, play on in Perth wearing orange tops, albeit now as the Morley Windmills. Wilhelmina became Ringwood Wilhelmina in the early sixties; these days Ringwood play in one of Melbourne’s lower divisions, still wearing orange. Fortuna ‘60, named after Dutch ex-Second Division club, Fortuna Vlaardingen, play in the regional La Trobe Valley competition east of Melbourne, also in orange. And in the A-League Brisbane Roar, resplendent in an orange kit and with a crest not unlike the KNVB, trace their history back to Hollandia, founded by Dutch migrants in 1957.

 

If you ask most Australians with an interest in football about Dutch connections with the local game, many will think of coaches Bert van Marwijk, Guus Hiddink, Pim Verbeek or John van ‘t Schip, or perhaps A-league players like Patrick Zwaanswijk, Orlando Engelaar and Jordy Buijs.

 

However, of far more significance to the development of the game in Australia are the thousands of football-loving Dutch and their offspring who have added a rich splash of oranje to Australian football from the 1950s onwards.  They, together with the millions of other European migrants and their progeny, helped revitalise and enliven football in Australia.

 

Hup Socceroos Hup! 

 

 

 

About Adam Muyt

Born into rugby league, found aussie rules, fell for soccer, flirts a little with union. Author of 'Maroon & Blue - recollections and tales of the Fitzroy Football Club' (Vulgar Press, 2006). Presently working on a history of postwar Dutch migrants and soccer in Australia.

Comments

  1. Hi Adam,
    Fantastic article Adam and Roberto. I wonder if there is a much of a difference between the way Dutch clubs function in Australia as to other clubs formed by immigrants in the post-1950s.
    It seems that the Netherlands has also been pretty good to Australian players in their efforts at forging their careers.
    I’m just wondering about the image in the top left: I guess it is Willem II playing, in their beautiful jersey, but is there any chance you know at which stadium?
    best,
    Andy

  2. Jarrod_L says:

    Fascinating read Adam, thank you.

    My connection to the Dutch stems from having my hopes dashed for Australian World Cup Qualification in 1994/98 and making the choice football fans from dozens and dozens of nations have to make every four years – who to support in place of your own country. My choice was made when I saw the highlights of Cruyff in the 1970s, emblematic of Total Football & in turn inspiration to perfect my own Cruyff Turns at school and the local rec centre squash courts before indoor games. I’ve had a soft spot for them ever since.

    It’s nice to now have a bit of local context to the impact of the Aussie Dutch diaspora – more personal and lasting than any Aussie Guus could hope to be.

  3. Adam Muyt says:

    Andy, you’re right about the beautiful jersery though it’s actually Sydney Austral’s. They played in orange tops during the 1950s before swapping over to these Willem Twee inspired red-white-blue stripes in the early sixties. The ground is in Sydney but which one escapes me right now. The Sydney Austral player off the ball and on the right is Jan Roozendaal, father of former NSW Labor Govt Minister, Eric.

    Was there a difference between Dutch and other migrant clubs of the 1950s and 60s? Hard to generalise – there were so many clubs formed in this period, each shaped by the energies, passions and context of their local migrant community, and where they formed. I’d be surprised if the total number of migrant clubs formed across Australia back then numbered less than a 100. And not just in the bigger cities – plenty of migrant clubs formed in regional areas like Mt.Isa, Northam, the La Trobe Valley and the Riverina.

    One common element – very few clubs persisted for any length of time with an exclusive ‘Dutch’, ‘Italian’, Greek’ et al homegeneity. Those clubs that tried to persist with a narrow ‘national’ focus usually folded within a couple of years.

    Jarrod, yes, I agree, the local Dutch influence is of more significance than blow-in,Guus.
    Those nineties teams: they were great years for Oranje – Bergkamp, Overmaars, Rijkaard, Blind, Hasselbaink et al. The steady decline of Dutch football in the last decade is a major concern. Leagues like the Eredivisie are now little more than feeder comps for Europe’s BIg 5. Twenty years ago who’d have believed that could happen to Dutch football?

  4. Paul Rubens. says:

    My dad Ruud Rubens worked for van Hoboken selling cigarettes. He came from den Bosch and played for BVV even winning the Silveren Ball with them. He went on to start the Wilhelmina juniors with my brother in the U12’s and me in the U14’s in 1959.

    Btw I run the Holland Festival in Melbourne. It will be on in March 2019. Would love your presence there in some way. This is great history.

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