1971 JAPAN TOUR
Australian football may have been formally welcomed into the Asian arena in 2006, and Asian Champions League participation is now commonplace for our A-League clubs, but one of the earliest forays by a club side into Asian competition was our very own St George who undertook a tour of Japan way back in 1971.
At the time, the Saints were one of the major players in club football in this country and were invited to Japan to compete in a four-team tournament which also included the Japanese national team, the Japanese ‘B’ team as well as Danish club, BK Frem.
Surprisingly perhaps for the hosts, St George were to claim the trophy after winning two and drawing one of their three tournament fixtures.
The opening match saw St George take on Japan, who had finished third in the 1968 Mexico Olympics football tournament, in front of a crowd of 25000. But Japan were to consider themselves fortunate that they didn’t suffer a hefty defeat as St George comfortably controlled the match, though the game finished in a 0-0 draw.
St George next took on the Danish club side, BK Frem, and this time the goals did flow with the Saints defeating their more illustrious European opponents 3-0. Atti Abonyi, Adrian Alston and Mike Denton were the scorers.
The final match of the tournament, and the Saints were up against the Japan ‘B’ side. Once again, St George flourished and it wasn’t long before they took the lead. An early goal by Harry Williams on six minutes set the scene while further goals to John Warren, Alston, Denton and a double to Abonyi easily sealed a 6-2 victory.
St George also played four friendlies on that tour, including in Macao and Hong Kong, and won all four.
So while our A-League clubs now look forward to their own Asian Champions League competition, consider that St George were the first to venture into that arena over 40 years ago.
7 March 1971
Japan 0 v St George 0
St George: Taylor, Harris, Sandell, Utjesenovic, Williams, Schaefer, Ainslie, Abonyi, Warren, Denton, Alston.
14 March 1971
BK Frem (Copenhagen) 0 v St George 3 (Abonyi pen, Alston, Denton)
St George: Taylor, Sandell, Utjesenovic, Williams, Schaefer, Ainslie, Abonyi, Denton, Alston, incomplete
21 March 1971
Japan B 2 (Ochiai 2) v St George 6 (Abonyi 2 (1 pen), Williams, Warren, Denton, Alston)
St George: Taylor, Harris (Campbell), Sandall, Utjesenovic, Warren, Ainslie, Abonyi, Denton, Alston, incomplete.
1. St George 3 2 1 0 9-2 5
2. BK Frem 3 2 0 1 2-4 4
3. Japan 3 1 1 1 2-2 3
4. Japan B 3 0 0 3 2-7 0
Macao 1 v St George 6
Jardines (Hong Kong) 2 v St George 6
Toyo Kogyo 2 v St George 3
FC Hitachi 1 v St George 2