Celebrating 50 years since Rale Rasic became Socceroos coach

Watch a two hour celebration of Rale Rasic's contribution to Australian football in the video player below.

This week marks 50 years to the day since Rale Rasic was appointed Socceroos coach at the remarkable age of 34.

Rasic’s journey from Yugoslavian orphan and migrant to one of the youngest ever FIFA World Cup coaches is one of the great stories in Australian sporting history.

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.

In 1962 he was approached to make the move down under, where he represented Footscray JUST in the Victorian State League.

However his playing days hit a sudden roadblock when he was obligated to return to Yugoslavia for military service.

An 18-month stint abroad saw him complete his national service and study of physical education, before returning to his adopted home in 1966.

“When I came back from the army I went to trial at a second division club and to be honest with you I couldn’t win the ball, I couldn’t challenge and had lost that split second which makes a massive difference,” Rasic recalls.

Behind The Scenes of Rale Rasic celebration

Fortunately enough, Rasic’s education placed him in appropriate stead to make the immediate step into the technical area.

“I studied to be a physical education teacher and at the time that was 60% of the job done for you,” he says.

“I was not enjoying it (playing) but had to come back to play (for VISA reasons), and after we won the Grand Final over South Melbourne I said to my President ‘I’m retiring.’

“He was really upset, but six months later I was his first great coach. He said ‘I have seven players older than you,’ and I said ‘that is why I want to be a coach!’”

Rasic rapidly ascended the coaching ranks, winning the 1969 State Title with Footscray before turning around a struggling Melbourne Hungary side to qualify for the Grand Final a year later.

At state level he won many plaudits, with friendly results that included a 0-0 draw against Greece and a strong showing against German powerhouse Hertha Berlin.

The secret to Rasic’s success was a regimented structure, style and discipline, mixed with his instinctive emphasis on individual man-management.

“Everywhere I went I introduced professionalism,” Rasic remembers. “And everywhere players followed and did what I asked them to do.

“By 1968 I was a state coach of Victoria and by 1970 in charge of the Socceroos so I must have done something right!”

After receiving a call from Soccer Australia chief Arthur George on the 13th August 1970, two days later it was official: Rale Rasic was to become Australia’s youngest ever national team coach.

Rale Rasic in Socceroos training in 1974
Rasic in charge of the Socceroos at the FIFA World Cup

The immediate years that followed saw the Socceroos embark on a 12-match unbeaten streak during their 1972 world tour, enjoy an undefeated tour of Asia and draw 2-2 with Pele’s Santos. 

When the Socceroos met Greece in Athens in 1970 someone bought Rale a baseball hat emblazoned with ‘the boss’ - a nickname that has stuck ever since.

The tag is truly emblematic of the high esteem he rightfully occupies: a man who channelled his tough upbringing into the tall order revolutionising football in Australia with professionalism, discipline and most importantly a fierce sense of national pride.

While he may not have been born in Australia, the ‘twenty-cent piece tears’ that flowed down his face as Australia were introduced at the 1974 World Cup well and truly show how Rasic is as ‘true-blue’ as it gets.

Watch Football Stories: The Heroes of 1974 Below!