Ethnicity has been a dirty word for some in Australian football, but the Socceroos squad represents our multicultural society better than any other national team.
Switzerland, France, Belgium and Germany have among the most diverse backgrounds at this month’s World Cup, but Australia’s Globalroos take some beating.
Ranging from Indonesia to Spain to Japan to and even the USA, no less than 15 other nations make up the multicultural rainbow of the 23-man squad.
Only attacker Dario Vidosic (Croatia) and coach Ange Postecoglou (Greece) were born abroad, while Massimo Luongo can lay claim to having the coolest ancestors, with his grandad a former Indonesian Sultan.
Massimo Luongo had all the skills back in 2002.
As part of the assimilation process, many of these players were taken to junior clubs of the same ethnicity, such as captain Mile Jedinak at Croatian-backed Sydney United and Mark Bresciano at Italian club Bulleen.
Perhaps no-one epitomised the struggle quite like national coach Ange Postecoglou, whose family anglicised their name just a few years after arriving from Greece on the ship ‘Patris’ in 1970.
However the Herald Sun’s former football writer Peter Desira was one of the reasons why the Socceroos coach’s parents are surnamed Postekos yet he remained Postecoglou.
“Early days were a bit tough because of the name,’’ Ange’s sister Liz said.
Mum and dad changed it to make our life easier for us, because as a kid it’s very difficult to have to spell your name letter by letter.
It was shortened from Postecoglou to Postekos. But from a very young age he was beloved in the Greek press and Peter Desira formed a bond with Ange.
By that stage the media had got used to the Postecoglou name and it stuck, despite Postekos still being on his passport. So legally he’s Postekos but in the media he’s Postecoglou.
He’s a bit of a traditionalist, so he’s proud of that name. He never changed it in the media and he could have. He said he was going to change it back legally.’’
Having arrived in Australia age four, it was Greek third division club Panachaiki that handed him a lifeline in 2008 when no Australian club would.
Jedinak’s background helped him get his first pro contract with Varteks Varazdin while Jason Davidson’s Japanese ancestry helped him settle in Japan as a teen.
And UK/European passports enabled Tim Cahill, Luongo, Bailey Wright, Ryan McGowan and James Troisi sign English contracts.
Luongo’s Italian-Indonesian background is owed to his sweet-talking dad, who hasn’t lost his charm even in his 60s.
Mario Luongo recalled how he and Indonesian student Ira fell in love when she was running his restaurants.
But his chronology is not quite right. The really story, I was his customer,’’ Ira said, cutting him off. I was so hungry one day I saw this Italian restaurant in Bondi, suddenly someone brought me a flower and refused to let me pay. Three years later I was his wife.’’
Mario said: “I needed a manager for the restaurant.’’
Ira’s late father AA Siradjuddin was Sultan of Bima and Dompu on the island of Sumbawa, which is still owned by relatives.
While Massimo’s great grandfather was the first Turkish Consul-general in Turkey before returning to Jakarta to be a high court judge.
Luongo’s move to England made waves in Indonesia, where many of his 16,800 Twitter followers are from.
“There’s an emotional attachment (to Indonesia), I’ve got grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins there. I’ve never been there but I would love to visit,’’ the Socceroos midfielder said.
“My grandad was a Sultan, so they were royalty before the Government took over, so they had quite a nice life. He basically owned an island. Dad’s background was a complete contrast, but I guess opposites attract.
“It was big news in Indonesia when I signed for Spurs, it made the papers and I’ve got quite a few Twitter followers from there.
“I trained with Ascoli team (dad’s village) when I was there, nothing serious. Tottenham were pushing Italy to come and have a look at me for a while, I probably wasn’t good enough for Italy anyway.’’
Matthew Spiranovic continues the Socceroos’ long and fruitful Croatian connection, which has included Mark Viduka, Josip Skoko, Tony Popovic and Jason Culina.
His dad was born in England while the family had a brief pit-stop on their way to Australia, while his mum’s parents moved to Australia just before she was born.
I’m proud of my Croatian heritage and grateful in many ways,’’ Spiranovic said.
“Because when I think back, when my grandparents migrated from Croatia to Australia they brought their love of football with them and I was exposed to it at a young age and it’s played a big part in my life.’’
For Borussia Dortmund keeper Mitch Langerak, his Dutch ancestry means a phone call ahead of his club’s big derbies.
“Dad’s dad was Dutch and I’ve still got cousins that live just over the border in Numansdorp,’’ Langerak said.
“So whenever we have a big game on a carload of Dutchman will come and I have to get them tickets.’’
© 2014 Herald Sun | This article first appeared in the Herald Sun on 11 June 2014.