As Adelaide City prepare for another assault on a Grand Final in the PlayStation 4 National Premier League South Australia this weekend, we should take a moment to reflect their contribution to football in South Australia over a memorable 70 years.
By Joe Pangallo, courtesy FFSA
From humble beginnings in 1946 to modern day football dominance, Adelaide City has ridden the fortune roller-coaster.
From dizzy heights to despairing lows, but like a Phoenix they have risen from the ashes to establish themselves as one of the true great football clubs to grace a football pitch in South Australia.
No other club in South Australia can match the sporting success the Black and Whites have had in its 70 years of existence.
City’s illustrious history stems from Italian immigrants who made Adelaide home after the Second World War, and whose love of football (or soccer as it was known) decided to form their own football club.
And as no surprise to historians, the epicentre of the club’s birth place was the multicultural Hindley Street in the heart of Adelaide.
And there in the back room of the famous Bailetti Sports store, Mario Bailetti and a small passionate group of former members of a club called Savoia formed what would become one of the most respected football clubs in the country.
The Adelaide club took its original name, and black and white stripe jersey from the Italian Sere A football giant Juventus, to form what would become one of Australia’s power house football clubs Adelaide Juventus.
The club became a “Family” for the Italian migrants in the 50’s.
Many legendary players like goalkeeper Danny Tiato, Charlie Di Bartolo and Fulvio Pagani gravitated to the black and whites where a social network was formed.
The 50’s was a great era for the Black & Whites, a time which saw them begin their incredible run of Championships. They accumulated six trophies in that decade, four consecutively between ’56 and ’59.
The 60’s bought three more championships and the rivalry with West Adelaide Hellas.
The encounters between the two sides were the much anticipated matches on the season schedule.
This period also unearthed some legends of the club.
Players of the calibre Graham Sherriffs, Eric Norman, Ron White, Joe Serafini, Mario Corti, John Besir, and one – John Perin.
Perin commenced his career in 1965 during the Ampol Cup (pre-season tournament) and went on to play until the 1982 season.
A very talented midfielder with exquisite skills on the ball, Perin caught the eye of the national selectors and was capped five times for Australia.
“It was a good time to be playing soccer. It wasn’t for the money, because there wasn’t any around, we were part timers,” Perin said with a laugh.
“It was more the comradery.
“You made long standing friendships.”
“The introduction of the National Soccer League in ’77 gave us the opportunity to play against the best players in the country.
During this time Adelaide City secured the services of Celtic striker “Dixie” Deans who became a cult figure in Adelaide.
The little dynamo amazed the fans with his ability to turn half a chance into a goal.
“We were able to get the services of “Dixie” and he never let us down. He was a super striker and a great bloke as well,” Perin added.
Perin reminisced the day the New York Cosmos came to Adelaide in 1979 to play Adelaide City at Kensington Sports field in front of 28,000 fans.
“Who would have imagined that an Adelaide club could entice the cream of International footballers that made up the NY Cosmo’s to come and play here.
Players of the calibre of Alberto Carlos – the 1970 Brazilian World Cup captain, German great Franz Beckenbauer, Italian striker Giorgio Chinaglia and Dutch idol Johan Neeskens,” Perin said.
The real architect of that the famous game was Rale Rasic, Adelaide City’s Coach at the time, and his good friend Johnny Warren.
The two visionaries saw the great potential in promoting the world game to a football starved city, and their gamble paid off – receiving massive media exposure.
Rale Rasic said it was one of the most memorable moments seeing a packed Kensington stadium.
“They all said it couldn’t be done.
“I had to beg the board for support to back the venture, and after many late night phone calls the dream became reality, it was a beautiful moment in my life,” Rasic said.
After a few coaching changes it would be Zoran Matic’s ten-year reign that would deliver Adelaide City more glory.
The Black & Whites under the guidance of Matic won three National League Championships in ’86, ‘91/’92, and ‘93/’94 and two National Cups.
Adelaide City appeared in four consecutive grand finals.
During this period, we saw the emergence of another midfield champion in Sergio Melta.
The gifted ball player would go on to play a record 445 games in the Black and White strip.
Adelaide City currently holds the record for the most Socceroos appearances — 142 — by its players over the past three decades, a testament to the quality of coaches that have nurtured the home grown players.
Adelaide City returned to the local league in 2003 and in 2005 were back winning titles under the guidance of Damian Mori.
This weekend Adelaide City will be looking for their eighteenth title to add to the 70th anniversary celebrations.
Written by Joe Pangallo