While the exploits of the Socceroos side that sent Australia to a second World Cup on November 16, 2005 have been widely celebrated, this week also saw the anniversary of another important milestone.
Today (Sat) marks 50 years since Australia’s first ever FIFA World Cup hopefuls travelled to Cambodia for a two leg play-off against North Korea.
While the 20-man touring squad was comprehensively beaten 9-2 on aggregate, their efforts have been recognised as playing an integral role in the success the Socceroos enjoy today.
A member of the side that departed Australia on 21 November, 1965 was left winger Geoff Sleight, who in an interview with Fox Sports has given an insight into how far things have come since.
“Thank god a lot has changed,” said Sleight. “I’d like to think that we were instrumental in starting off these four occasions when the team has qualified.
“It wouldn’t have been so interesting, it would’ve perceived to be too easy if we’d have done it.
“We didn’t have preparation covered in terms of food and water. A lot of the guys were sick because we were drinking the local water, eating the local food.
“We thought we couldn’t get to them because they were better than we were quicker.
“But maybe they were better and quicker because they weren’t ill.
“I can remember I thought we were going to beat North Korea but we didn’t know anything about them.”
Fast forward 50 years and the Socceroos are well on the path to qualifying for a fourth consecutive FIFA World Cup.
Ange Postecoglou’s squad are top of their AFC qualifying group with two matches on home soil to look forward to in 2016.
The Socceroos have so far travelled to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Jordan and Bangladesh but as Sleight suggests their Road to Russia really started well before the current campaign.
“I initially didn’t like the term pioneers but now I do, someone’s converted me,” said Sleight.
“It’s a good term because we were the first. We’ve been recognised, acknowledged.
“That is all as an individual I ever wanted.
“As being an integral part in the history and development of football in Australia.”
Watch the video above or click here to see Glen Lauder’s interview with Geoff Sleight in full.