14 August 2017, Sydney Australia
Craig Foster is an ex Socceroo and long time broadcasting partner of Les Murray. Watch the video at SBS on demand.
Football evangelist, missionary of the world game, Les Murray changed both the game in Australia and the nation through his life-long mission to make Australia understand.
Alongside his partner the great Johnny Warren, the two main protagonists in the inexorable rise of the beautiful game in Australia.
More on that in a moment.
Firstly, may I extend the condolences of our football community to Les’s family with particular mention ofthe extraordinary Cida Maria Olsen, who spent the past 15 years with our colleague and nursed Les through his most difficult times, in the past 2.
We witnessed first hand the incrediblelove and devotion Cida gave our brother, how she cooked his meals twice a day when he was in hospital, arranged his schedule, made his apologies and chided him gently over his relentless smoking, to little effect as most of you would be well aware.
Thank you Cida on behalf of the millions of Australians who are part of Les’s extended football family. We owe you a debt of gratitude and you need only ask and football will be there to support you.
Now, to Les’s beloved game.
He appeared on our television screens every week and gave his football sermons, and changed the social fabric of a nation.
Before the game was truly accepted, when it took great moral courage to carry the fight, Les was there. He fought the battle for every immigrant, publicly, on their behalf, as their representative and through the game they shared.
When they arrived here and found little of their beloved game, they could always turn to Les and feel a little more at ease, that someone understood them.
Speaking with his famously perfect pronunciations anddressed impeccably, his pride in the game and its community, in you, in us, was palpable.
I can still hear him so clearly now.. ‘this is not a job, it’s a mission’, he would say. To make Australia see.
Les brought the world’s best football to our screens for a reason, to open our eyes and teach a new generation of kids to emulate the greats. To become great.
The very kids that would later make the Round of 16 in Germany. All part of his personal, lasting legacy.
For this, Australian football is forever in the debt of Les Murray.
He despised any attempts to mutate the game to accommodate the prevailing culture. ‘Let them come to us, in time Australia will learn’. And how they have, Les, how they have.
Les believed in Australian players, Australian coaches, Australia’s destiny in the game.
I remember most fondly his love of seeing Australia play, his heartache when it did not end well, his unbridled joy when we qualified in 05 against Uruguay, young again, as few had lived the torment of the 32 failed years so deeply.
And above all he adored the great players, joga bonito, beautiful play.
‘Where’s the ball son..’ he would yell when Messi dazzled a defender. And when a team toyed with the opponent hecouldn’t hide his pleasure.. ‘they’re hiding the ball..’ he would chuckle, like his mighty Magyars used to do.
Les’s most enjoyable moments, you see, were not when the camera was on, but when it was off, just watching the game. As it should be.
He still played on occasion. Libero like Beckenbaueur, yelling ‘keep the ball.. keep the ball’, and momentarily he was with his heroes Puskas and Di Stefano in ‘60, up 7-3 against Frankfurt, directing the play of his childhood dreams.
I tell you it was glorious to see. The pride. The sheer joy.
Usually, Les could mask his emotion as the consummate professional, though one of our most difficult broadcast moments together, when Italy’s penalty knocked us out of the World Cup is an abiding memory.
We sat, in the bowels of the Fritz-Walter Stadion in Kaiserslautern, waiting as the floor manager counted downto live – ‘ten, nine, eight..’ and neither could look at the other, lest the tears flow.
That is why he had the admiration and trust of our football community - because he cared as much as them.
Speaking of professionalism, while we await our own Ballon d’Or winner, off field we had our own galactico.
He was unquestionably one of the world’s finest football broadcasters. The historical knowledge, the insightful interviews, and when Les worked with the legendary Martin Tyler or football’s other luminaries, they met as equals.
The game we enjoy today is courtesy of the two great warriors who fought our battle, Les and Johnny, whose spiritual leadership brought millions along for the ride, on whose coattails we all sailed into a new era.
And yet Les’s mission went so far beyond where we are today.
And if his passing marks the end of a golden era of the two great champions of our game, leaving us momentarily uneasy, uncertain, for we had the comfort of Les Murray’s guidance and service for three decades, whence to now?
That is why this final farewell is a call to arms to the football community, a moment we must reinforce the dream, reenergize the mission, for Australia to become a football nation and to win the ultimate prize, the FIFA World Cup. Male and female.
Les and Johnny believed it was possible, and so must we all. It can be done.
Only in this way can we complete their work, for their visionary beliefs to come to fruition and change Australia forever, for the better.
Football and Australia, a match made in heaven we might say, from where Les and his mate Johnny now judge our contribution.
‘What are you all going to do now?’, I hear them ask.
‘How are you going to bring our vision to reality?’
Well, friends of football, if I may answer on our behalf, we will fight, and dream and believe until the mission is achieved. Les did his duty, this is ours.
Les Murray lived his life for Australian football and to change Australian society through preaching the gospel of the beautiful game.
May he rest in peace knowing that his work will continue. That is the best eulogy you, I, we can provide.
So rest well old friend, alongside Johnny. We’ll miss you dearly.
It will be a grand day when we can again discuss football in the world game studio in the sky.