Les’s world of good

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - TOM SMITHIES

FOOT­BALL play­ers, sup­port­ers and broad­cast­ers have joined to re­mem­ber the man known as “Mr Foot­ball” af­ter the death of Les Mur­ray was an­nounced yes­ter­day. He was 71.

There will be a minute’s si­lence be­fore tonight’s four FFA Cup ties. Play­ers will wear black arm­bands as the game be­gins to ac­knowl­edge its debt to a man who an­chored SBS’s cov­er­age of foot­ball for 3 ½ decades.

Mur­ray passed away yes­ter­day morn­ing af­ter a long ill­ness, just months af­ter he had an­nounced plans to be the face of a bid for a new A-League team in Syd­ney.

His death came three years af­ter his re­tire­ment from SBS at the close of 35 years’ se­nior in­volve­ment at the network, dur­ing which he pre­sented cov­er­age of eight World Cups and a va­ri­ety of com­pe­ti­tions from the old Na­tional Soc­cer League to the Cham­pi­ons League.

Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull said Mur­ray “had made the world game Aus- tralia’s game”, while for­mer Soc­ceroo Craig Fos­ter – for years Mur­ray’s com­pan­ion on screen – said the world had lost a “foot­ball colos­sus”.

Mur­ray’s fi­nal broad­cast at the 2014 World Cup con­trasted with his first at SBS in 1980, com­men­tat­ing on the NSL with two days’ no­tice.

But he and his close friend, the for­mer Soc­ceroo Johnny War­ren, forged a pow­er­ful iden­tity for SBS as the home of foot­ball, pre­sent­ing shows in­clud­ing World Soc­cer, which ran for 22 years.

In 1990, Mur­ray con­vinced SBS bosses to ac­quire the rights to the World Cup, spark­ing au­di­ences in their mil­lions, and in 2006 he proudly pre­sented cov­er­age of Aus­tralia’s first games at a World Cup in 32 years.

SBS CEO Michael Ebeid spoke of a “dev­as­tat­ing loss for us all” in an­nounc­ing Mur­ray’s pass­ing in an email to staff yes­ter­day morn­ing.

“His role went far be­yond be­ing a foot­ball com­men­ta­tor,” Ebeid said.

There was a stream of tributes from cur­rent play­ers who re­mem­bered watch­ing foot­ball pre­sented by Mur­ray in their child­hoods.

“So sad that Les Mur­ray has passed,” Soc­ceroo Tim Cahill tweeted. “A pi­o­neer and leg­end of our game.”

Wan­der­ers cap­tain Rob­bie Corn­th­waite wrote: “Thank you for teach­ing me about foot­ball.”

MR FOOT­BALL: Les Mur­ray has a lit­tle fun pre­sent­ing SBS's World Cup cov­er­age in 1994.

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