Farewell Les Murray - humble, gentle, funny, icon...
AUSTRALIAN football broadcasting icon Les Murray, who was a Special Guest Speaker at the Football Hall of Fame WA's 20th anniversary last November, has died. He passed away on July 31 at the age of 71.
Along with former Perth Glory coach Bernd Stange, the very popular Les brought an extra dimension to the Hall of Fame Induction Night, which was held at Crown Perth on November 26, 2016.
Many in the record crowd of over 430 swamped the former SBS broadcaster with requests for autographs and photographs.
"It was all a bit overwhelming," said Les at the time. "But a wonderful night and one I shall treasure."
It was one of his last public speaking appearances and he was full of praise for the efforts of the Football Hall of Fame WA in helping to preserve the history of the game in the west.
His death came as a great shock to Australia's football family, although it's believed he had been ill for some time.
On being approached last year to attend the Hall of Fame anniversary celebrations, Les said: "It is with great honour that I attend the 2016 Football Hall of Fame Western Australia celebrations. From afar I have long watched with admiration the great work being done by the football community of Western Australia.
"Much has been achieved ever since the Western Australian Soccer Football Association was formed in 1896. Many of our greatest Socceroos came out of the West. The creation of Perth Glory in 1995 was one of the benchmark, pioneering events in our country's football history.
"I look forward very much to catching up with my many friends in the West."
Football Hall of Fame WA chairman Louis Prospero said on hearing of the death of Les:
"It was an honour and privilege to meet him. He was a humble and genuine man. Had a great sense of humour, he wanted to know what your thoughts were on football. We were so fortunate to have him at our Football Hall of Fame 20th Anniversary function.
"He didn't want an appearance fee, he just wanted to support us and said that anytime we needed him, he was there for us.
"I was lucky to spend time with him and show him around Perth. We had dinner at Kings Park and then walked to the War Memorial to the lookout over the city. To my amazement it was the first time he been there, given that he had been in Perth on numerous occasions.
"His favourite spot was in Fremantle where we had a wonderful lunch. The World Game and World Football has lost an icon who will be dearly missed, but never forgotten."
**Former Socceroo and SBS broadcaster and football analyst, Craig Foster, said the game had a lost a “football colossus” in a series of tweets paying tribute to Murray.
“The world lost a football colossus this morning, Les Murray AM. He fought well into extra time but whistle has blown. His legacy is lasting,” Foster tweeted.
“Les left family that loved him, colleagues adored him, futbol community that revered him. Well played old friend. Extraordinary performance.”
**Football Federation Australia chairman Steven Lowy said: "This is a very sad day for football. Few people become synonymous with their sport…but Les was one of those few.
“He made an immense contribution to football in Australia through his professional work but above all through his passion... he literally brought the game to millions and connected us to the biggest sport in the world."
**Les had retired from his role on the The World Game in July 2014, having played a major role in the game’s development in Australia since the 1980s.
In a statement SBS said: “Les will be remembered not just for his 35-year contribution to football in Australia, but for being a much-loved colleague, mentor and friend who has left a unique legacy. To say he will be sorely missed is an understatement.
“Many Australians know Les as Mr Football, who began working with SBS when it launched as a television broadcaster in 1980. His role went far beyond being a football commentator. The growth, popularity and success of football in Australia today is absolutely a reflection of his passion and advocacy for the game that he loved.”
**Murray pioneered football broadcasting in Australia following the launch of the National Soccer League in 1977, initially on Channel 10, and went on to become the voice of World Cup coverage on SBS for several decades. He hosted eight World Cups in total, his debut coming at Mexico 1986.
He sold Australia a vision of the world game – a phrase he coined – rather than just a British game.
“I started on this mad mission to convert Australians to football in the schoolyard,” he said in a Guardian video last year. “That’s where it started, not when I became a broadcaster, that was just a continuation of it.”
In partnership with his fellow commentator and former Socceroos captain Johnny Warren, Murray tirelessly promoted football as a game that could be accepted by Australia’s sporting mainstream, and sold a love of the game outside the narrow confines of the UK. The pair became known as “Mr and Mrs Soccer”, also the title of the 2004 book about them by Andy Harper.
“Johnny and I were soul mates... He was my mate and brother,” Murray said of Warren in Harper’s book.
**Les, who was born as Laszlo Urge in Budapest, Hungary, in 1945, came to Australia at the age of 12 and settled in Wollongong. He became a journalist in 1971 - he was also the lead singer with a band - and initially joined SBS as a translator and a Hungarian caption writer.
He went on to receive many honours for his contribution to the game and was a member of FIFA's Ethics Committee for a spell.
In 2006 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia and was also inducted into Football Federation Australia's Hall of Fame.
He was a former chairman of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union Sports Group and was a director of the Johnny Warren Football Foundation. In 2009 Les received the Australian Sports Commission's Lifetime Achievement Award for his services to sports journalism.
Les's authority and rich experience in sports journalism, broadcasting and business, made him a much sought-after figure, opinion-maker, writer, raconteur and skilled speaker. He spoke at the United Nations and at many international forums.
PIC ONE: Les Murray (left) with Louis Prospero and Bernd Stange at the Hall of Fame's 20th anniversary. PIC TWO: Les in great form at the anniversary dinner. PIC THREE: Amusing moment as Les gets the "order of the old boot" from MC John O'Connell. PIC FOUR: Emotional moment as Les makes a Hall of Merit presentation to Jim Tombides, father of the late Dylan Tombides who had been posthumously inducted.