Les Murray, the face of Australian football for over three decades passed away today at the age of 71 but his legacy and passion for the game will live on.
Murray's passing has shocked many as it was only in April that he launched the Australasian Football Institute (AFI) and was working as a spokesperson for the Southern Expansion A-League bid.
Not long after retiring as an SBS broadcaster, FourFourTwo met with Murray at a café in Double Bay, Sydney where he spoke about the impact the round ball game had on Australian culture.
“Our society has become better, more worldly, more outward looking, more open as a result of football, because it’s the world game,” he said.
“Football is not here to conform, football is here to make change and that’s what football’s place is and should always remain.”
Murray had been an ever-present figure on Australian TV screens for over three decades and along with former Socceroo great Johnny Warren championed the game’s cause.
But Mr Football, as he was known, was unsure if the round ball game had made him a well-known figure or if it was the other way round.
“Well I don’t know how popular I am, probably a bit of both,” he said. “SBS built a market from a few thousand in the early 80s to 11 million viewers for the last World Cup.
"So, if an SBS football commentator is popular then he is enjoying the fruits of his labours, because SBS built a market.
“The approach that SBS has taken for 35 years should continue by whoever does it and that quality is centred on treating the game with respect and treating the game as a necessary agent of change within Australian society.”
While at times football struggled to become mainstream, Murray transcended the sport. In 1995 Australian band TISM brought the Hungarian migrant into Australian popular culture when their song ‘what nationality is Les Murray?’ was released on their Gold Album, Machiavelli and the Four Seasons.
Later that year Murray accepted an ARIA award on behalf of the band and gave the thank you speech in Hungarian.
After his more than 35 years of service to football Murray admitted that the sport still needed strong characters to promote the game.
“It’s a game in development, it’s still a growing game in Australia,” he said. “So it can always use prominent people to champion football’s cause like I’ve been doing, like Johnny Warren’s been doing and like Craig Foster is doing for example.
“So long as it remains a growing game it’s always useful to have prominent people who are credible and who are trusted to be championing the football cause.”