The OzSoccer Articles

Black and right

Chriz Kunz updates us on the activities of our two most illustrious Aboriginal players.

As far as I know Harry is still in Canberra - in the Public Service.

Some of us may not know who he is, but he was the first Aboriginal to play for Australia - a wonderful overlapping fullback. Harry played for St George in the 70s and Canberra City (briefly) in the NSL.

I had the pleasure of playing alongside Harry (and Charles Perkins, et al) in the Canberra City Old Boys team in the early 80s.

I caught up with Harry last year at the World Cup 74 Reunion dinner in Wollongong. He is pretty quiet, but often smiling and one of the nicest human beings one could ever meet.

Charles Perkins has a very different personality. He has been a controversial public figure in this country for over 30 years - but his impact is undoubted. He is a fighter - against all odds, and an inspiration, even if you don't agree with him.

A truely great read is his 1975 book 'A Bastard Like Me'. It is hard to get hold of, but if Tancred or others can, you will find it very difficult to put down. You will feel him in the room with you as you read!

It is full of humour and classic accounts and covers his upbringing after birth in Alice Springs; his battle of self-discovery as a relative 'half-caste'; his health problems; his encounters with the world game and eventual progress to play for Pan Hellenic (I used to call him 'Perkins Paste' when I saw him play in the late 60s - idiotic really, as the paste was white - I think he was the first Aboriginal I'd seen) and his move to England to trial with Everton, + dating, marriage, the Freedom Rides etc.

People tend to love or hate him and I am definately in the former camp. Like many, I have been frustrated with his comments at times and have wished he would keep his mouth shut - but if life is the night time sky, Charlie is a blazing comet that returns again and again... while we are mere mortal moths!

As the first well-known Aboriginal player, Canberra City SC President, head of Futsal and the Aboriginal Sports Commission (not to mention his roles as Secretary of the Dept of Aboriginal Affairs and ATSIC), he might well be considered for recognition. In fact he is one of very few to have made the successful transition from top level playing to administration. [Of the current breed, I can only think of Jack Reilly.]

Whether Comet Charles will one day light up the Soccer Australia Hall of Fame, is probably more a matter of politics than quality - nothing new for Charlie!

Charlie has never lost his love for the game. I spoke to him at the Canberra v Wollongong game on Feb 7, and asked him how many young Aboriginal stars there were on the horizon...."60!", he replied.

I turned away with a smile - both at the thought of that number and its likelihood.

Charles Perkins is an Australian icon whether the HoF recognises him, or not.