Generations of Australians: Rale Rasic
In the latest instalment of the 'Generations of Australians' series, we look into the life of Rale Rasic OAM and his impact on Australian football. Watch the full feature in the video above.
The 84-year-old managed the Socceroos for five years and famously took an Australia side made up of part-timers to their first FIFA World Cup in 1974 – a tournament which was made up of only 16 teams.
After Rasic, it took the Socceroos another 32 years to make it to the world stage again.
He was also a prominent figure throughout the NSL era, coaching Marconi Stallions, Adelaide City, South Melbourne FC, APIA Leichhardt, and Canberra Cosmos.
Rasic’s contribution to the game is truly legendary. He is the only football coach featured in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, an inaugural inductee of the FFA Hall of Fame, and a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) recipient.
As a part of the ‘Generations of Australians’ series, former Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Bosnich presented him with a personalised ‘Rasic’ Nike Australia 2020/21 home jersey as a gift to say thank you for his legendary influence on the game.
"The Socceroos and the FFA in combination with Nike have released their new brand-new jersey and on behalf of everyone in Australia, not just from football, we would like to present it to you," Bosnich said to Rasic.
Rasic thanked Bosnich and explained why the Socceroos jersey and the nation mean so much to him.
"It means life for someone who came from a foreign country," Rasic explained.
Rasic is a war orphan. He lost both of his parents during World War II and grew up in an orphanage in Zrenjanin, Belgrade – a place that he remembers fondly for teaching him some of life's greatest lessons.
"Football has so many twists and turns. What it does for you create in you either a man or a villain," he said.
"I decided after all of the complications (with football) that I had to study, finish my schooling and to become a man who was regarded with respect.
"I don't credit that to any club, I credit it all to the orphan house."
Having found his feet as a promising player with the Yugoslav national youth team, Rasic represented his nation of birth at two European Championships during the 1950s.
He also plied his domestic league trade in Yugoslavia before he arrived in Australia to play for Victorian side, Footscray JUST in 1962.
But when he arrived, he found a very different country to the one he had read about.
"I read so much about Australia before I came," Rasic explained.
"I analysed Queensland, Western Australia and the climate of the country.
"When I came, I arrived in shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. This was Essendon airport in June 1962.
"When I got off the plane, a guy wanted an interview with me and I said ‘give me a jacket, I give you an interview.’
"It was one of the coldest days I ever experienced."
However, it did not take Rasic long to fall in love with Australia.
Not even returning to his homeland for mandatory military service could not stop him from settling in Melbourne.
"When I came back, I realised there is no way back. I’m staying here, this is my home," he said.
"I had the choice to maintain that Yugoslav passport and to become a dual citizenship, but I opted only for one. That was an Australian passport.
"Australia allows you to have a free mind and you have the freedom to do what you want because the decisions are yours.
"My passion is this country because it is unmatched. It is my soft spot."
In recent years, Rasic’s dream and passion has been the creation of Australia’s first football Museum.
A place that would help to recognise our history and to educate the new generation of football lovers.
Although, he will always have a dream for Australian football and it is one that is focused on youth development.
"Australia is a great sporting nation," he explained.
"But, we don’t have players like we used to have and we need to ask ourselves why."