Meet the old Socceroo who played for nothing
By SALLY GORDON
WHEN the Socceroos take on Brazil next Monday at 2am (AEST), George Russell will probably be asleep dreaming of Australia annihilating the five-time World Cup winner.
The 82-year-old Yamba resident, pictured, and former Australian soccer representative, believes Brazil won't have it all its own way. In fact, Mr Russell reckons the Socceroos are in with a fighting chance.
"It's a hard call. To be realistic I think Brazil might carry the day, but my heart just keeps on hoping that we will smack their ass and beat them two or three nil," he said.
"I think Guus Hiddink hit the nail on the head when he said Aussie sportsmen never ever say die, no matter what sport they are playing.
"And as for Croatia, if we can beat Japan 3-1 and they're 18th in the world, we can do it with Croatia too."
Mr Russell's eyes light up as he sips coffee at his Yamba Road home and ponders Australia's World Cup chances.
The former inside right player has spent a lifetime on the soccer field, representing both NSW and Australia throughout his illustrious sporting career.
He first learnt to play soccer at a young age, growing up around the coalfields of Cessnock.
At 18 he was playing senior soccer against men well beyond his age.
In 1947 Mr Russell was first selected to play for top Sydney soccer team Leichhardt/Annandale.
Two years later he got his first taste of international soccer when he played for Australia against Yugoslavia in Brisbane.
Games against England and China followed.
Mr Russell spent a total of 14 years playing first-grade soccer, earning him a little over $500 for his blood, sweat and tears.
Now, the Yamba retiree said his mind boggles at the salaries earnt by the game's elite, with the likes of Liverpool's Harry Kewell reportedly commanding an annual wage of $10million.
"In my day they had no money or no finance at all," he said.
"When I played Yugoslavia in Brisbane I got nothing, organisers maintained it was costing them money to fly me up there and accommodate me, so they couldn't afford to pay you as well."