With a record of 89 appearances and 36 goals, Attila Abonyi is one of the most potent strikers Australia has ever had. Playing in a time before the easy beats of Oceania, where scores would regularly get into the double digits, not enough has yet been done to recognise the contribution of Abonyi to the history of Australian Football.
Leading the line for Australia for over a decade 1967-1977, Abonyi’s national career took in Australia’s first international tournament win in Vietnam at the height of the war, 3 World Cup campaigns and the 1974 World Cup in Germany.
Born in Hungary, he moved to Melbourne aged 10 and by the age of 15 in 1962 was playing first team football in the State League with Melbourne Hungaria.
‘I was just a skinny lad playing for the Under 16 side and the first grade Hungaria side wasn’t traveling to well. The coach wanted to play some youngsters, he gave me my debut in the second half against George Cross
The rise of Abonyi continued when in 1967 at 21 years old he was called up into the national team to face a Scotland side in Melbourne that included the future manager of Manchester United – Alex Ferguson.
Abonyi was part of the Australian team that participated in and won the Vietnam National Day Tournament – Australia’s first international tournament win. Being held in Saigon at the height of the Vietnam war, the Australian team were faced with ‘awful conditions’ from dodgy food to landmines next to the assigned training field.
‘We were paid $50 a week for that trip, only for loss of wages – we got paid nothing for the 10 games’
In 1974, After helping through the qualifiers, Abonyi was selected to represent Asutralia at the World Cup in Germany. Where despite not winning a game, the team drew the admiration and respect of other teams and the public.
“Back in those days only 16 teams qualified, England didn’t qualify and we did!’
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