“The great tragedy, today is there is a mass of people out there, who have come into our game post 2005 who think that pre 2005 the game was just one massive wasteland,” former Chairman of Soccer Australia Remo Nogarotto tells Behind the Game on the latest episode of the podcast.
Staunchly proud of his ‘old soccer’ heritage, Remo Nogarotto has witnessed the good and bad that the game has delivered. The former Chairman of Soccer Australia passed through Marconi Stallions and Northern Spirit on his rise to the top of Australian Soccer Administration.
Remo acknowledges the National Soccer League was in ‘terminal decline’, impoverished at an administrative level. The clubs were ‘’being held together by benevolent people within their communities who didn’t want to let go of the football heritage’’.
“The traditional clubs were completely opposed to any reform of the game, because they saw reform as a euphemism for death,” Remo found during his time as Chairman of the NSL.Growing up in the Western Suburbs of Sydney Remo recalls, “It was a rite of passage for Italians that as soon as you turned 18 you become a member of the Marconi Club.”
Entering the administration of the Marconi Club at only 24, Remo found himself on the Soccer Board that oversaw the Marconi Stallions NSL side.
“To be involved at the Marconi club at that time you almost thought you were involved in the Barcelona of Australian football”
“So much of the club’s [Marconi] history was built around football.”
“Football was such a way of life for Italian immigrants at the time and had become their only social outlet in many ways.”
After departing Marconi - Remo became part of a consortium that entered Northern Spirit into the NSL in the 1998/99 season.
The Northern Spirit were ‘unambiguously modelled on Perth Glory’ declares Remo. Perth Glory at the time run by Nick Tana was proving successful as a mainstream club.
“The National League in those days was not the sexy sporting product in town, apart from us and Perth Glory there wasn’t a lot to spruik about.’’
Northern Spirit experienced immediate success both on and off the park. In their first league game against Sydney Olympic a crowd of almost 19 000 turned out to see the new team take the park.
The club was able to reach the finals in its first attempt, falling to Marconi in the first stage of the finals.
Despite this promising first season, the success wouldn’t last, the club finished 13th in the league in the following two seasons.
“The Northern Spirit star shone brightly and fizzed out in a very short space of time,” laments Remo.
Off field troubles also hit the club after significant shareholder Mark Goldberg, owner of Crystal Palace in the English Premier League, struck financial problems and pulled out of funding Northern Spirit.
“It was probably the most difficult and traumatic time I have ever had in football,” recalls Remo.
The club was later owned by Scottish Powerhouse Rangers.
“Where Rangers got it wrong was coming into town and brushing aside the Northern Spirit’s identity.”
The ‘Old Soccer’ of the NSL folded at the end of the 2003/2004 season and the ‘New Football’ of the A-League was launched in 2005.
One of the new A-League franchises was Newcastle Jets owned by Con Constantine. Remo worked under Con as Director of Football at the newly established franchise.
Constantine is renowned in the Hunter region for his love of the game.
“He has poured millions into the game, the guy has no other toys, other than football he doesn’t have fast cars, big boats, and he just loved every minute of football.”
Newcastle Jets experienced an infamous episode under Constantine’s ownership when they signed former Brazilian International and European Golden Boot winner Mario Jardel. As revealed by the book ‘A-League: The Inside Story of the Tumultuous First Decade’ by Shaun Mooney and John Stensholt (available to purchase here) Jardel was signed by Constantine off the back of a YouTube video, without the knowledge of his Director of Football Remo Nogarotto or Head Coach Gary Van Egmond.
“Con was sold on the idea of a former Brazilian World Cup star, former being the operative word.”
Mario Jardel would go on to play only 11 games that season for Newcastle with the majority late appearances off the bench.
“Like a lot of owners they never know when to distance themselves from the football team.”
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