Thursday, 4 August 2016

Book review - Roy Hay's 'Football and War: Australia and Vietnam 1967-1972'

To coincide with the opening of a new exhibition at the National Museum of Canberra focusing on the 1967 Socceroo tour of Vietnam, the doyen of Australia soccer scholarship Roy Hay has a released a companion book.

With the long and unwieldy title of 'Football and War, Australia and Vietnam 1967-1972: A Missing Part of the National Narrative', Hay seeks to achieve three things: first and most obviously, creating a concise and accessible overview of that tour, as well as the events leading up to that tour and the events which followed; second, to 'encourage FFA to recognise the boys of 1967 next year on the 50th anniversary'; and third, to provide a practical demonstration to the Australian soccer community of how to produce books like this.

The basics of the 1967 South Vietnam tour - and especially the tour's status as the first time an Australian soccer team won an international trophy - are probably familiar to a good portion of Australian soccer followers. This book goes further than that simple historical soundbite however, by looking at the wider context of the tour.

This approach includes, among other things, analysis of Australian soccer's fledgling attempts to compete in international soccer following the end of its FIFA ban in 1963; Australian soccer's attempts to engage with Asian football, including the steep learning curve of the health, safety and playing hazards of touring South-East Asia; the hard lessons of not underestimating Asian opposition; an attempt to figure out who came up with the idea and purpose of the tour, including analysis of the tour's political and commercial contexts; and perhaps as importantly, a chance to move away from the singular narrative of the story as told in various contexts by the late Johnny Warren. While the specifics of this tour have been covered by Warren in Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters, and the doomed 1965 tour in Jesse Fink's 15 Days in June - which includes coach Tiko Jelisavcic's morale destroying antics - Hay provides a wider range of first person accounts of the 1967 tour and those tours of South-East Asia which followed it.

Much of the enjoyment of this book is in reveling in the sheer audacity and recklessness of taking on the expedition. The dangers the squad faced on the 1967 and subsequent tours of Vietnam (and Hay does well to add details of those lesser known tours) are palpable. Plonked into the middle of a war zone, even if the case is true that they were generally safer than most of the locals, the players were well aware of the political and social situation. In those difficult circumstances, it is often argued that the groundwork was laid for the team solidarity that lead to qualification of the 1974 World Cup.

Despite the lessons learned from the tour, Hay ponders the question of what impacts, if any, the tour had both within the limits of its immediate propaganda, team preparation and fundraising aims, as well as Australia's attempts to join the Asian confederation. Already reticent to let Australia join the AFC, Australia's success in this and the subsequent tours may have actively put off nervous Asian nations, who already had limited international clout and avenues to the World Cup from qualifying. If that is the case then Australia's success, while a marker of the improvement of the national team both on and off the field, may have indirectly lead to its becoming part of Oceania and its nightmarish qualification paths.

The book's achievement as a demonstration of cheap and efficient publication methods is worth noting. Befitting the author's background as a scholar, the book is fully referenced, including the dozens of photos used in the book. In covering a relatively niche topic, Hay combines thorough scholarship, along with interviews with those involved in the tour, and turns it all into a neat, efficient package. Clocking in at just 91 pages, most of which have at least one photograph and often several, the book is an example of what can be achieved even by amateur soccer historians. You don't need to go all out on design and paper costs - good research driven by diverse sources, combined with efficient writing, can see you produce histories that can cover both niche topics and longer histories.

For those interested either in Australian national team history, or looking for an example of a cheap and efficient method of publishing a sports history book, this volume is well worth the effort of tracking down.

The exhibition focusing on the 1967 Vietnam tour by the Socceroos is now on at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, as part of the 'Journeys' section of the museum. The exhibition will run for four years. Copies of the book (RRP $19.95) are available from:
  • National Museum of Australia, where the exhibition is being held.
  • All good book stores via Dennis Jones and Associates (that is, you can get your local bookstore to order it in if they don't have it in stock)
  • Melbourne Sports Books 
  • By post from Roy Hay via the Sports and Editorial Services Australia website.


  1. Hey Mr Paul, this line caught my eye... "Jesse Fink's 15 Days in June - which includes coach Tiko Jelisavcic's morale destroying antics -"

    Care to expand with a brief summary? As with many other books, the intention to read is there, but I just know I never will.

    1. Having banned the players from interacting with the local women while in Cambodia, Jelisavcic brought along his wife who would swan around the hotel pool in her swimsuit and who was, according to at least one player, an 11/10 in the looks department.

      Worse than that, Jelisavcic was also a card cheat, and he cheated during card games with the players.

    2. pics or stfu

  2. Fuck Roy Hay.

    1. I second this. A liar and an enemy of NGW.

    2. His comments about the NCIP were disgraceful. His views on ethnicity in the sport seem to have regressed significantly or maybe he always held those view but was just better at covering it up in the past.

  3. Unrelated to the topic above, just wanted to get any thoughts on the magnificent run other NPL sides seem to be having in the FFA cup this year.
    I appreciate the opinion that a mickey mouse pre-season (for a league) cup shouldn't matter but still feel a tinge of jealousy for the great press (and respect) clubs like Gully and Bentleigh are getting.

    1. I'm looking forward to the magnificently racist press calling for an a-league team in the Gong when Wollongong pulls a killer crowd next week against Sydney FC. But when Syd Utd pulled almost 10,000 last year, nobody says a damn thing.

      As much as I enjoy it, I still say they can stick this cup where the sun don't shine.

    2. Kimon, with all due respect, once South gets eliminated from the FFA Cup, my interest in the tournament ceases.

      I appreciate though that others may have a different opinion on the matter - goodness knows how much time I spent discussing the matter of my disinterest with a university colleague earlier today.

      However, if someone would like to write a piece focusing on the impacts - whether on the club itself or on as a South supporter watching other teams play - I'd welcome the opportunity to publish it.

    3. NPL clubs were never expected/supposed to win any of these games.

      Does the fact they do mean anything?

    4. I'm sure the FFA had no idea or intent that it would be this successful. They're just running with it and delighted it's appeasing the pro-ethnics.

    5. Paul, I totally agree and also lose interest when Hellas are knocked out... I guess my comment stems from the frustration felt by the fact that the general narrative in the reporting on this cup by the mainstream media is all about "how wonderful it is that all these heritage clubs are finally proving themselves worthy of being part of the football landscape in this country" and "The divide between professional and semi-pro football in this country is shrinking, maybe its time to get a national second division up and running"
      For the Oceania Club of the Century to not even be part of this conversation is anathema....

      Yes we can be a fickle bunch and get a lot of band-wagon support when times are good, that drops off of course when we hit the skids, but after so many years of complaining that we are better than our current circumstances the fact remains that we are not in the running this year for:
      FFA Cup
      Dockerty Cup
      Premiership and therefore National NPL
      still doubtful we can even get into NPL VIC finals

      As a South supporter THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH!!!!!!!!

    This joke has gone far enough. CT OUT!!
    If he stays put, it's time for a new board.

  5. Not just CT Anon but the whole squad.....

    Apart from Fish and maybe Norton on a good day, it doesnt look like any single one of them realizes just exactly who they have the honour of playing for...

    I watched an interview with that lovely young Caitlin from the womens team (who thumped in 8 goals last weekend btw) and fell in love with her attitude. She is proud of the club, respects the "Hellas brand" and is doing herself (and by extension us) proud ... Bravo bravo bravo to her and her parents for raising her.

    There are hundreds (used to be thousands) of South supporters who would give both arms and a leg to just, for one minute, step onto the pitch in a Hellas top ... just for one minute. OK none of us are blessed with the talent, fitness or dedication required but these kolopaida that are don't seem to recognize how fortunate they are.

    I'm sure I don't need to name any names or examples... we all see it week in week out... NOT GOOD ENOUGH

    Anyway, I'm getting dangerously close to popping a blood vessel so I better stop :o)

  6. Hi guys , im a south fan and today i was told by a reliable source that Chris Taylor hasn't been paid for 15 weeks. That explains the poor performances.

  7. Im shattered, if thats true what about the player's. That explains everything now.smfc reputation gutted.

  8. I wouldn't pay him either...


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