In a Class of His Own: Harry Williams

Thursday marks the birthday of one of the stars of Australia's FIFA World Cup 1974 squad, defender Harry Williams – the first indigenous player to turn out for the Socceroos.

Sixty nine years ago today, Harry Williams was born in the rugby league heartland of Sydney’s 1960s’ boom team St George. 

Thankfully it was for a different St George team that Williams would make his name, the catalyst coming in the form of his six year old neighbour. 

“One of the young boys who lived next door asked me to come along to his soccer training one evening, and from there I was hooked,” Williams told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2006.

"Billy Smith (St George halfback of the 1960s and 70s) was a good family friend and he always said to stop playing that sissy game and come and play rugby league.

"But I couldn't - I just loved it. I played a lot of other sports and had to choose between some of them and soccer, and I always chose soccer."

After rising through the ranks at St George Police Boys side and St. George-Budapest, Williams was recruited for the national side at age 19.

Williams’ club form was so impressive that it took just six senior games for Australia Coach Ralé Rašić to select him in the 1970 world tour.

"I was shocked really - I was just enjoying myself," Williams said in a previous interview of his surprise call-up.

"We played something like 15 games in a dozen countries - Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Iran.”

In doing so he became Australia’s first Aboriginal Socceroo, and his remarkable journey would ultimately lead him to take part in Australia’s first appearance at the World Cup finals in 1974.

Williams tasted FIFA World Cup action in the final group match against Chile with the left back helping the 10-man Socceroos hold on for a well-deserved draw. 

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Australia’s first aboriginal Socceroo had just helped Australia claim its first ever point at the FIFA World Cup.

Williams notable career included 43 games for Australia, including 20 full ‘A’ internationals and a 1975 match against Manchester United in Sydney. 

Since retiring Williams continues to give back to the Indigenous community, becoming manager of the Indigenous Services and Cultural Diversity Unit for ACT Correctional Services. 

Canberra-based Williams also helped launch ‘The Harry Williams Cup’ - an indigenous soccer tournament which brings indigenous youngsters from around NSW together for a tournament. 

Known for his electric pace, overlapping runs and attention to technique, Williams was a highly respected and well-liked member of his clubs St George, Inter Monaro and the Socceroos.

Listen to the FULL Harry Kewell interview on the FFA Podcast NOW! Subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play & Spotify.

Watch videos from the interview below or tune in to a live Premiere of Football Stories: Harry Kewell on the Socceroos Facebook Youtube on Thursday from 7:30pm AEST.