50th Anniversary of Australia’s First World Cup Campaign

50th Anniversary of Australia’s First World Cup Campaign

November 2015 marks the 50th Anniversary of Australia’s First World Cup campaign in 1965 where it faced North Korea in Cambodia.

Stan Ackerley was a member of this historic side; he went on to get 30 caps for Australia including three as captain. He has also been inducted into the Soccer Australia Hall of Fame.

                                                Australia's First World Cup Campaign Poster
Poster promoting the World Cup Qualifier between Australia and North Korea 1965


“We didn’t know what we were going into,” Stan stresses when talking about that First World Cup campaign. “We went to Cairns for a month. Trained five- six hours a day, with a couple of friendly games then we were shot off to Phnom Penh.”

Australia’s first World Cup qualification was a two-legged playoff, with both games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. On November 21 North Korea took the first match 6-1. The second leg three days later ended 3-1, again in the North Korea’s favour.

“North Korea were an exceptionally good side. They did very well getting to the quarter finals in 66’ in Britain.” Stan recalls.

Born and bred in Manchester, England, Stan played school boy and representative football up until the age of 14. Stan then had the opportunity of a lifetime to join a professional club.

“I then I had a choice to go to a lot of professional clubs, naturally the main club them days was Manchester United, so I went to Manchester United in 1956.”

“I had a good run there, signing professional when I was 17,” says Stan on the podcast.

After he didn’t manage to break into the Manchester United first team Stan was looking for other opportunities, when the option of Australia came up.

“Australia had just gone back into FIFA so there was a mass immigration of players coming out here from all over the world,” Stan recalls.

“I thought it would be a good way to come out (to Australia) for two years.”

There were new opportunities in a different country, with close ties to home, and the incentives cemented the decision for Stan.

“The money was pretty good, very good actually. In England in those days the money was £20 a week in playing season, £17 in the summer season. Coming out here (Australia) the money was virtually tripled.”

Stan Ackerley

At the height of the Vietnam War in 1967 the Australia Government, proposed that the Australian Soccer Team, head to Saigon to take part in the Independence Day tournament.

The core of the side that competed in the 1965 World Cup qualifiers were again selected for this tournament, eventually beating South Korea in the final and winning Australia’s first international trophy for football.

Australia Soccer Team Winning First Tropy - in Vietnam

The Australian team return with the trophy from the Independence Day tournament in Vietnam. Source: Soccer World, 1 December 1967, p. 1.

Arriving in a foreign country in the midst of war, surrounded by unfamiliar and unusual circumstances brought its share of surprises, Stan recounts on the podcast.

"All you saw are soldiers, guns, helicopters, you are training on parts where you saw nothing but soldiers going over the pitch to see if there were any landmines, and it was a hell of a culture shock."

“I had a lucky escape over there, as I was electrocuted,” says Stan.

“We were going up to our rooms, I had Gary Wilkins and Dr Corrigan, with me. I opened the hotel room door and reach around to turn the lights on and there were live wires there– I flew across the room!”

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