It was 50 years ago that a group of semi-professional footballers defied all the odds to become the first Australian side to qualify for a World Cup
Adrian Alston, who was part of that Socceroos side that defeated South Korea to earn Australia a berth in the 1974 World Cup finals in Germany, remembers it "like it was yesterday".
On Monday, November 13 a special luncheon and civic reception was held at Sydney Town Hall to mark and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Socceroos squad which secured Australia's maiden appearance at the 1974 FIFA World Cup.
These trailblazing Socceroos will also be acknowledged on Thursday night in Melbourne when they will take to the field ahead of Australia's Asia Cup qualifier against Bangladesh at AAMI Park.
Horsley resident Alston, more commonly referred to as Noddy, said he always loved catching up with his former Socceroos team-mates and reflecting on their "wonderful achievement".
"I think sometimes the enormity of what we achieved has been downplayed a bit," he said.
"Even among the playing group it was only after the World Cup itself that we realised the immensity of what we had achieved.
"I saw Jimmy Rooney when we were in Sydney and I brought up a comment he made to me 50 years ago. He rang me after we got back and he said 'wow Noddy could you f...... believe that'....'where have we actually been'.
"Because for us we just got on with the job and played but then you realise how big it is.
"People talk about playing in the EPL. I played in the highest league at that time, which was the English first division.
"But playing in an international match is another different level, playing in the World Cup finals is like on a different planet.
"It's just amazing. The difference in quality and talent is unbelievable in a normal international.
"It doesn't matter who you're playing against whether it's a lower nation or whatever the case may be, but it's the best of that nation, the best of it."
Unlike the Socceroos of today, those who donned the green and gold colours in the early 1970's often had to work full-time and find time to train and play for Australia.
The 74-year-old Alston said it wasn't uncommon for players to lose jobs and wages when representing their country.
"We always regarded ourselves as professional and full time players and we made sure that we trained that way but we did it tough because obviously you're not getting the money as you would normally do in your job," Alston said.
"Players had families they had to look after. I was lucky enough that my wife understood that my football was first and she just let me do my thing. But sacrifices had to be made.
"That's why being the first Australian players to lead our country to the World Cup is such a proud moment for all us players.
"I mean the might of England, who won the 1966 World Cup, didn't qualify for the 1974 World Cup.
"We not only qualified but beat the world champions East Germany in the process.
"The achievement for us was absolutely out of this world for us to do that.
"Consider also we weren't full time, we weren't being flown around the world first class, we just got paid expenses but those expenses had to be left at home to feed your family.
"So it was even bigger than what people thought.
"Only one team from our region made it and there were only 16 teams that competed in the World Cup.
"We had to win Oceania, we had to win Asia, we had to win the Arab nations. There was no second, third, fourth or fifth, it was only the top country that qualified.
"It was unbelievable to be one of just 16 countries from 220 worldwide to play in the 1974 World Cup.
"We finished 13th in the whole world. We are very, very proud. No one can take that away from us."
Alston said seven players, including 1974 Socceroos coach Rale Rasic had unfortunately passed away and missed the 50th anniversary celebrations on Monday.
"It was very emotional not seeing those guys but it was wonderful catching up with everyone else and just reminiscing about our time together," he said.
"I can see them again tomorrow when we get paraded up on the ground before the game.
"It's going to be great just to sit down with them after and share a beer and have a bit of a meal together and everybody's just talking about the past.
"It was great on Monday just to put your arm around them and have a hug and just start crying all the time. It was emotional but very special for all of us."
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