Vale Les Murray



Growing up in Australia in the the 1970’s and 80’s if you wanted to know what was going on in the world game you had the following choice:

1/. Stay up late on Monday night to watch Big League Soccer on ABC (pretty hard to do for a 8 year old kid even with a soccer mad da, this was a rare treat)

2/. Catch the 5 minute soccer segment on World of Sport with Fred Villiers, (even though the footy panel would crap on about a meaningless VFL game so poor Fred would have to rush through his segment)

3/. Await football magazines from the UK either from family or the local newsagent (the mags were 3 months behind, but hey us soccer tragics are very desperate people.)


Then along comes SBS on the old UHF channel and we see for the first time Les Murray.  He wasn’t an ex AFL/Rugby commentator who had been shafted to present the soccer segment.  He was a real soccer expert and most importantly he was a fan.  Suddenly we can see games from Italy, Argentina, Brazil and all the major hotspots of the world game.  With the varied ethnic backgrounds that Australia embraced they all flocked to SBS to watch games from their homeland.  Les championed the local scene with the coverage of the old NSL and of course the Socceroos.  Before Les Murray came along I wasn’t aware we had a national soccer team or we had a national league.  Les Murray was the only voice we had in soccer and if we were not sure how a club or player from overseas was pronounced then we had Les Murray to show us how to pronounce those tongue twisting names (would have been nice if some other sport journalists went to the same effort).   As the game grew so did Les Murray’s stature not only in football, but also in the general population of Australia.

He could call the moment whether as a commentator or hosting a broadcast of a big game.  Just watch how he handled the aftermath of the Australia vs Iran game in 1997 and of course when the Socceroos finally qualified in 2005 against Uruguay.    When he came up against an anti-football media person Murray would shoot them down by eloquently putting his point across and not rant and rave.

Whenever I have written or broadcasted about soccer I wanted to be as good as Les Murray, but in reality how do you compete with a god?

All I can say to Les Murray is how he used to end his World Soccer program on Saturday afternoons:

Ciao Les.


About Vaughan Menlove

Obsessed with Richmond, Luton Town, Melbourne Victory and Arsenal. The Dr had a soccer career hampered by the realisation he was crap, but could talk his way around the game. Co host of It's Not Called Soccer podcast


  1. Peter Fuller says

    Dr. C.,
    Thank you for your worthy and appropriate tribute to Les M. His commitment in the face of the apathy and even hostility of we unreconstructed Aussie Rules (and in the northern States Rugby League) enthusiasts was admirable. Les was a major reason why soccer* has achieved its present level of popularity – and its potential future inroads into Australians’ consciousness.
    I can empathise with your sense of isolation and dislocation as a soccer fan in the 1970s and ’80s, before Les made his decisive influence felt on “Soccer bloody soccer” channel. I first became interested in the game in the late 1950s through the influence of Tiger magazine and subsequently a subscription to Tiger Weekly, which my sainted mother arranged and brought home each week from the neighbouring town newsagent. I had considerable difficulty building a mental picture of the game, only partly corrected when I saw some early State League matches telecast on ABC-TV in the early ’60s (George Cross, Polonia, Wilhelmina, Slavia, JUST, and of course Juventus anyone?). I first saw a live match at Olympic Park about 1962, but it remained a confusing sport to me. While I remain committed to Aussie Rules as my first love, I am now a moderate enthusiast for the world game, and I’m a Melbourne City season ticket holder, and in the internet age, I can keep track of the European Leagues..
    * I use soccer not to be provocative, but to avoid ambiguity of terminology.

  2. Dennis Gedling says

    The brilliance and importance of Les could be seen when anyone of the new generation tried to imitate his style or ability to pronounce the unpronounceable. It came across as a poor imitation at best. Such an important individual when it was an unimportant and often derided sport in his country. I can’t remember ever seeing Les for the first time, he was just always there. A tragedy the same habit that killed his good friend Johnny Warren also got him in the end.

  3. Amen to everything you say about Les and Johnny. Their passion and the SBS pictures from Europe and South America made ‘world football’ come alive to me. The game suddenly went beyond petty local ethnic squabbles and Jimmy Hill’s goatee beard on Match of the Day.
    There was a vibrant and passionate football world out there.
    I think local fans beat themselves up to much about being a marginalised sport in Australia. All my younger friends and relatives passionately follow top flight European football in the same way they follow the NBA season in the US. Sport is global not local now for consumers.
    Australia’s place is much like it is in politics and economics. An overachieving minnow trying not to get eaten by the killer whales.

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