Socceroos pay tribute to Johnny Warren
THE man known as Captain Socceroo - Johnny Warren - was honoured by current Socceroo stars Tim Cahill and Matt McKay when they helped unveil a statue of the Australian football idol outside Sydney's Allianz Stadium in late March.
Warren, who played 42 times for Australia, 24 as captain, died after a long battle with cancer in November 2004 at the age of 61.
The statue, which was commisioned as part of NSW's Sports Sculpture project, was considered to be a long overdue tribute to a man who symbolised the game of football in Australia.
The very affable Warren was a familiar figure in Western Australia, coming here many times in the mid to late 1990s to commentate on Perth Glory games in the old NSL.
He was also a regular contributor on 6PR Sports programmes and often shared commentating duties with George Grljusich. He was a regular on the SBS programmes On The Ball and The World Game and covered many World Cup finals on TV in the company of Les Murray.
Warren played for the Socceroos when they first qualified for the World Cup finals in 1974 - and it was his long-held dream to see Australia make it through again.
He was famously quoted as saying: "I'm sick of us saying, 'When are we going to qualify for the World Cup'? When are we going to win the World Cup? ... Call me a dreamer."
That dream became a reality in 2005 when John Aloisi scored the iconic penalty against Uruguay that sealed qualification for the finals in Germany, one year after Warren's death in November 2004.
Weeks before his death, Warren was asked what he wanted his sporting legacy to be – his answer "I Told You So", a phrase that has become a catch-cry in Australian football.
Cahill, who has played in the last three World Cup finals, said: “It’s a monumental day for football. It's special, it’s something that should have been done a long time ago.
“More importantly, he was a pioneer of the sport. He’s somebody that the whole country looked up to."
Warren is the 12th sporting figure to be honoured with a bronze sculpture at the venue, but the first of anyone associated with football.
“It’s about bloody time,” Cahill said.
“The first football statue and there’s a lot been done in the game. Like I said, he’s a pioneer, he’s someone we all looked up to.
“For me the best thing is to enjoy how proud we are of what we can do as a country, domestically and internationally.
"We can all be very proud of his legacy and what we can carry on going forward.”
**WA LED the way in honouring footballers when a statue of the late Dylan Tombides was unveiled at Loton Park, next to nib Stadium, in April 2015. Perth-born Dylan, who played for West Ham and turned out nine times for Australia at under-17 and under-23 level, died of testicular cancer in April 2014 at the age of 20.
PICTURED: Matt McKay and Tim Cahill unveil the Johnny Warren statue.