Roma Cup keeps alive thrilling day for WA State team
SEVERAL of the players, plus officials, who were involved in the WA State team's memorable clash with Italian giants AS Roma 53 years ago, have been invited to a special celebration at Ascot racecourse on May 18.
The Roma game, which attracted a crowd of over 15,000 in the first international football game to be played at Perry Lakes Stadium in July 1966, has been commemorated every year since with the running of the featured Roma Cup at Ascot.
The winner of the inaugural Roma Cup in 1966 was Summer Storm. This year the event is the centre piece of the D'Orsogna sponsored Italian Day at Ascot and will be run over 1200 metres.
There will be a strong Italian flavour during the meeting and the chance to explore the Italian Village with authentic home made food from local community groups. There will be live music and family entertainment.
A special lunch will be held to salute some of the WA players and officials, including inductees into the Football Hall of Fame WA, who were involved in the historic clash with AS Roma.
The Italian giants had won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the predecessor of the Europa Cup, in 1961 and the Coppa Italia in 1964, but had narrowly escaped financial collapse in 1965. Supporters bailed out the club and a new president took over, so the trip to Australia was a fresh start.
Melbourne provided two of the stops on an intensive eight-game month-long tour which took in matches against Australia in Sydney, Northern New South Wales in Newcastle, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.
Roma was the first Italian club to arrive in Australia after the Second World War and played two games against Victoria at Olympic Park in 1966, setting the crowd attendance record for that venue variously put at 37,500 and 35,856 in the first of the games.
Either way it was a crowd record for Olympic Park. Spectators filled the ground, encroaching to the very touchlines, while others clambered to vantage points such as the top of the grandstand roof, nearby trees and the back of the adjacent velodrome.
Roma won the first game 4-2 after scoring in the first minute through Angelo Spanio, but when the Vics hit back with goals by Norm Gajda and Frank Micic, the crowd began singing ‘Arrivederci Roma’, before late efforts by Spanio again, Fulvio Francesconi and an overhead kick by Victor Benitez swung the game back to the visitors.
By the time the tourists got to Perth they were understandably tired and the West Australian team led 2-1 with only 20 minutes left.
The game was played at what was a new venue for overseas visitors, Perry Lakes Stadium which cost the then considerable sum of $2million to build and hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1962.
With the State team poised to grab a famous victory, somehow Roma’s players roused themselves and powered away to a 4-2 result in the end, but not before the WA part-timers had shaken them through goals from Rod Reid and Henry Lukoszek.
The WA starting team was: Lou Ivanoff, Roy Simpson, Neil Morson, Henry Marchant, Peter Atkinson, Wally Musial, Mike Ireson, Rod Reid, Paul Sobek, Henry Lukoszek, Ray Magennis.
The substitutes were: Alister Norwood, George Cairns and Lou Andrioff. The coach was Ziggy Pieda.
The 1967 Yearbook praised the efforts of the WA team, saying: "It was a successful effort by WA's State men who no longer are haunted by the debacle of the 14-1 thrashing by Everton in 1964 and who are now starting to develop into a cohesive unit under the capable coaching of Ziggy Pieda."
PIC ONE: The programme for the WA-Roma game. PIC TWO: WA's line-up, with officials, before the Perry Lakes game. PIC THREE: WA celebrate their second goal. PIC FOUR: SFWA president Julius Re greets the visitors. PIC FIVE: Crowd nearly spills onto the pitch in Melbourne.