Ethnicity and Soccer: The effect of non-English speaking immigrants on the establishment of soccer in Canberra in the 1950 s and 1960 s. Nick GuothAbstract: Soccer in Canberra as a sport had died prior to the war. The advent of Australia's new immigration policy after 1945 saw a solid influx, over the next two decades, of non-English speaking Europeans to Australia and through their input they assisted in the re-emergence of soccer as a main sport in the region. From the Baltic states to the Southern Europeans of Greece and Italy, the change to the Canberra landscape was quite dramatic; soccer was one that benefited significantly.
In the days prior to the second world war ethnicity evolved around that of Scottish and non-Scottish when dealing with the sport of soccer in the region. In all the records of those who played soccer up until 1933, there was only one non-British player even though a number of Italians and others were working in the district. When Australia opened it's migration policy, after 1945, to include those from a larger number of non-English speaking backgrounds, many moved to Canberra to help build the Capital during the construction boom of the period. Yet this did not create the harmony that was hoped for. Familiarity was essential to post-war immigrants. Australian culture was alien to new arrivals and Australians were at best indifferent to immigrants and sometimes antagonistic to the newcomers.
A long-held Australian distaste for anything not British also helped drive immigrants into self-contained communities, their organisations serving as bulwarks against the British-Australian majority. Soccer clubs in immigrant communities were an instrument through which all elements of life could be sustained. They enabled individuals to interact, establish patronage links, support networks and social contacts. They were institutions which could be used to create tightly-knit communities and they were valued as a way of retaining the support of the youth.
There was a continuing fear among older immigrants that their children would abandon their heritage in favour of Australian ways. (1) Following the second world war, soccer in the district did not return until 1948, when a team participated in the Goulburn competition. The sport moved back to Canberra in the following year although competitions were rare, and reporting of these even rarer. In those few years following the recommencement of play, soccer teams comprised of mixed ethnic origins, yet team names were still mainly geographical. In 1951 four teams entered a competition - Turner, Ainslie, Capitol Hill and Olympics. The origin of the latter is unknown, yet it is quite unlikely to bear any relation to the later Olympic teams of the Greeks.
Matches were generally played at either Kingston or Turner Ovals. Soccer from 1949 was administered by the ACT Soccer Association and in 1952 the local representative team dominated a visiting Sydney representative team 5-1. Yet it was the composition of the local team that made it multicultural. The team was: Blank, Reiser, Blak, McAlister, Gavranovic, Leitner, Borer, Czajor, Zuraszek, Van-Ven and He iss. 1953 saw the emergence of team names with nationalistic identities. These included Balkans, Napad and Cracovia (the latter two being Polish in origins) and by August of that year the first incident involving an ethnic team occurred at Duntroon." A New Australian soccer team showed its first flash of temperament yesterday when it walked off the field in protest against a ruling by the referee at Duntroon.
The team, Cracovia, disputed a decision about bringing on a reserve at half time." (2) The first of the three major powers of soccer came to being in 1954 when the Italians joined together to form Torino. Over the next few years they changed their team name to Roma in 1955, Naples from 1956-1958, Roma again in 1959 and finally to what we know as Juventus in late 1960. The Dutch through Hollandia and the Ukrainians through DNIPRO also began play at this time yet it was Napad who carried the flag in close competitions. In 1956 the second major power in soccer, the newly formed Australian Grecian Soccer Club, Olympics, joined the second division. Wistula, representing the Polish community and most likely having taken over from Cracovia, joined Balkans, Hollandia, Naples, Napad and DNIPRO as the mainstay of the first division competition. If it wasn't for the Royal Military College team, the British backed Canberra United would have felt somewhat left out.
In Division two, Olympics were joined by Be Quick, another Dutch team, Me lita from the Maltese community and Bohemians of Czech origins as the new ethnic teams. Brawls on the field, mainly by spectators was unfortunately a common occurrence. In mid-1956, 200 of a 1, 200-strong crowd invaded the field in a match between Wistula and Balkans when one of the players was punched. The game was eventually abandoned and the then Secretary of the ACT Soccer Association, Mr D.
Hayes, said "that most of the teams in Canberra were formed by national groups. Although now without their former countries, they found national expression through soccer. New Australian spectators often became excited and tempers frequently became frayed." (3) By 1957 a new power emerged in Canberra soccer, the Hungarians. On the back of the visiting Hungarian team to Australia and the number of refugees who fled their country at the end of 1956, a team was formed in September of that year.
It proved to be very successful, not only winning a cup final but also holding the current champions, Bohemians, to a 2-2 draw. They would become one of the dominant teams over the next five years, only to die out soon afterwards. The third and final major power in soccer came to be in late 1958. On September 28 th, a meeting was held and a decision was made to create the Croatian Soccer Club Canberra with the intention to enter a team in the ACT competition." With a love for soccer and a need to preserve their national identity, the Croatia Soccer Club was formed by a small group of Croatian immigrants who had settled in Canberra after they had been forced to leave their homeland." (4) Also entering the 1959 competition were KS Austria. Yet it was more what happened towards the end of this season that would shape many changes in the future.
On August 6 th 1959, the ACT Soccer Association made the decision to cancel the rest of the season. The decision had been made following a number of incidents where spectators, and in some cases players, had been involved in brawls. A prominent soccer official stated that "club following was a good thing, but partisanship can be carried too far. The continuation of the competition would have done the game more harm than good." (5) Further incidents occurred in mid-1960 with an assault on a referee and more disputes and fights in other matches. It was not uncommon for teams to be suspended, as Roma and Balkans were for stages of the season. Yet on July 12 th 1960, an Australian first occurred when the ACT Soccer Association directed all clubs to drop their national names.
By mid-August the changes were made - KS Austria to Concordia, Croatia to SC Hope, Hungarian to FTC, Bohemians to SCB, Balkans to St George, Hollandia to Canberra Austral, Napad to International and DNIPRO to Canberra Lions. Roma were initially changed to The Kangaroos, but quickly changed again, this time to Canberra Juve. By 1961, the number of teams had fallen to 20 even with the inclusion of Cooma and International Stars. Yet there were more changes to the face of the game in this year than ever imagined. By April, Canberra Lions had pulled out.
In May, the ACT played its first international side in Fiji, holding the islanders to a 3-3 draw. St George and the new International Stars were removed from the competition owing to poor discipline and lack of results. In June, Australian Juventus pulled out of the competition after one of their players was banned for five years and the club fined lb 25. Olympic were suspended from competition with two players banned for life, but of most importance, the ACT Soccer Federation was founded after the ACT Soccer Association had fallen into debt. Over the next few years the game settled down on the field and the sidelines with the most significant action being left to the Federation, player payments and constitutional changes. The Australian National University joined in 1962 and Queanbeyan the following year, whilst Juventus resumed play also in 1963.
By 1965, most of the national-based teams of the past decade had gone. Juventus, Olympic, Concordia and SC Hope were left whilst more geographical-named teams like Kingston and Turner emerged. In 1970 division one consisted of Juventus, Croatia Deakin, Olympic, Turner Eagles, Griffith United (NSW), Monaro, Red Hill and Forrest. This was not the end of ethnic teams entering the ACT competitions with Queanbeyan Macedonia in 1966, Inter-Monaro (Italian) in 1967, Lyons (Spanish) in 1972, and throughout the next three decades there have been other clubs like Harmonie (German), Slovenian-Australian SC, Canberra United who became White Eagles (Serbian), Narrabundah (Spanish), L ASCA or Condors (Chilean) amongst others. Over the two decades following the end of the second world war, soccer in the ACT saw many changes.
It's growth owes much to the influx of non-English-speaking migrants all of whom have played a major part in providing the sport with the impetus and colour that has seen it flourish to the present day. References: (1) Phillip A. Mostly, Richard Cashman, John O'Hara and Hilary Weather burn, Sporting Immigrants, Walla Walla Press, Sydney, 1997, p 165 (2) Canberra Times August 3, 1953, p 6 (3) Canberra Times May 25, 1956, p 5 (4) Bernard Lust ica, From Hope to Glory - 40 years of Croatia Deakin Soccer Club, Elect Printing, Canberra, 1998, p 1 (5) Canberra Times August 8, 1958, p 24.