FFA Cup a new old tradition

There's a sudden sense of excitement throughout the football community with the launch of the FFA Cup.

There's a sudden sense of excitement throughout the football community with the launch of the FFA Cup.

And with the A-League approaching its tenth season, it's high time clubs in the lower levels of Australia's football pyramid get their chance to not only mix it with the elite, but to even emerge victorious against them in formal competition.

The FFA Cup is a long-awaited tournament and while in one sense it’s a new competition, in another it is carrying on a tradition that started in Australia more than fifty years ago.

Before national league days, the country's top clubs played in the state federations, in league and knock-out cup competitions. The state-based federation cups were quite prestigious events for their time.

In 1960 Australia's first major interstate club challenge took place, where the cup winners from the big states played in a round-robin tournament to become the country's club challenge champion. Footscray JUST took the honours, over Brisbane Hellenic. Melbourne-based JUST - which stood for Jugoslav United Soccer Team - was typical of the big clubs of the time, created or strengthened in the post WW2 period by football-loving immigrants from war-torn Europe. JUST in particular played an important role in developing some of Australia's best players and coaches in the 1960s and 1970s.

Australia Cup - 1962 to 1968

In 1962 a more traditional knock-out national cup competition was initiated. With the biggest teams from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Newcastle, the inaugural Australia Cup was won by NSW side Yugal - another club formed by immigrants from the former Yugoslavia - who defeated Budapest in the final. The 3rd place playoff, between Juventus and Juventus (from Melbourne and Adelaide), was won by the South Australian team on penalty kicks, back in the day when only one player from each side took penalties in the shoot-out.

The Australia Cup grew in 1963 to take in teams from throughout Tasmania. From 1964 Perth and Canberra clubs were represented, giving the competition a truly national feel.

Played throughout football's first real boom period, the Australia Cup was a refreshing competition providing many highlights during the 1960s. Some decent-sized crowds took in the action, while the new national stage fuelled an expansionist desire across the big state league clubs ultimately leading to the creation of Australia's first national football league in the 1970s.

Australia Cup passion rode high with fans of the big clubs, but sometimes went over the top. The 1966 semi-final between Hellas (Melbourne) and Hakoah (Sydney) ended prematurely when an assistant referee was bashed during a pitch invasion, Hakoah leading 3-1 at the time. An all-South Australian first round match in 1968 saw more trouble with the referee felled by a rock, the Hellas-Lions match abandoned as players, spectators and officials fought in frenzied scenes at Hindmarsh Stadium.

Off the field, tension between the national and state governing bodies took a public turn with an impasse on who was to pay for North Perth's trip to Sydney for their 1968 semi-final against Hakoah. Ultimately North Perth lost the match on forfeit as neither they, the WA federation nor the Australian Soccer Federation was prepared to pay the cross-country travel expenses for the WA champions.

Things were getting complicated and the easy way out was to simply scrap the Australia Cup.


Shows regions repressented in the Australia Cup, NSL Cup and A-League.