Lazaridis Joins WA's Sporting Greats
STAN Lazaridis has become only the second footballer to be inducted into the WA Institute of Sport's Hall of Champions.
He was welcomed into WA sport's most prestigious line-up of champions at a ceremony at HBF Stadium on October 17.
Perth-born Gary Marocchi, who captained the Socceroos in a distinguished playing career and was the inaugural coach of Perth Glory, was the first footballer to be included in the Hall of Champions in 1996.
Lazaridis joins an array of WA sporting elite including Olympic champions Herb Elliott and Shirley de la Hunty, cricketing greats Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh, Adam Gilchrist and Kim Hughes, golfer Graham Marsh, Aussie Rules stars Graham Farmer and John Todd and billiards supremos Walter Lindrum and Bob Marshall who have been honoured by WAIS.
The 43-year-old said he was humbled and honoured by his Hall of Champions induction, which he saw as a reward for his family and wider support network.
"I am really flattered to be included in such a line-up of sporting heroes," said Stan. "To see my name alongside Olympic champions is a special privilege, and a terrific honour.
"It's been a long, and a times hard, journey from playing in the local league, getting my chance in the NSL and then going to London, which was daunting. Landing in central London, not knowing anyone and not knowing my way around was a real challenge. But it's been a wonderful journey - and now this honour really caps it off."
The latest induction brings off a hat-trick of honours for Stan, who was included in the Football Federation Australia Hall of Fame in 2010 and then became a member of the Football Hall of Fame WA in 2012.
He is WA's most capped player, having represented Australia 72 times, 60 of those games being full A internationals. He also took part in four World Cup campaigns and was the first player from the West to be involved in the finals - in Germany in 2006.
He captained the WA State team on two occasions, making his debut as a fleet-footed 18-year-old against Moscow Torpedo in 1990.
Stan began his senior career with Kingsway Olympic and also played for Stirling Macedonia and Floreat Athena at local level before being snapped up by NSL club West Adelaide.
It was while playing for the State team in an international challenge against West Ham that he was spotted by then Hammers manager Harry Redknapp and snapped up by the London club in 1995 for a fee of $600,000.
After four years with West Ham, he dropped a division when transferred to Birmingham City in a deal worth over $3 million. He was a key player as the club gained promotion to the Premier League. He played 222 games for City, including the League Cup final in which they lost to Liverpool after a penalty shoot-out.
Stan returned to WA in 2006 to play for Perth Glory and retired in 2008.
He told The West Australian newspaper: ""I want more and more West Australians to go on and do better than me, but the truth is that it’s very difficult.
“It’s not easy to leave your home town to go and play in the big league and to sustain it in a competition where you’re so heavily marked and judged each week. I really hope someone else will go beyond what I did soon, but it’s getting tougher."
He praised current Australian coach Ange Postecoglou’s focus on blooding new players for the international stage and believed the game had a strong standing in Australia.
“Making it to the World Cup in 2006 really kicked on the development of the game in Australia and it’s grown immensely since then,” he said.
“I remember when I started playing with the Aussie team, even our own supporters were coming mainly to watch the opposition. Argentina would come to Sydney and get their feet massaged and we’d go to places overseas and get beaten up and food poisoned.”
***Meanwhile, two of Lazaridis' old foes from his Premier League days - former Manchester United duo Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville - were inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame on October 16.
PICTURED: Stan Lazaridis (left) receives his Hall of Fame WA award from HoF Patron Julian Burt