AN EASTWOOD football club conceived in 1958 in the middle of the Indian Ocean is celebrating its 60th Anniversary on Saturday.
St Andrews was the brainchild of the Lee family who came up with the idea of forming a community football club while on board on board the ocean liner S.S. Strathaird, enroute to Australia.
The club was established in Eastwood as part of the Northern Districts Soccer Football Association, now known as the Gladesville Hornsby Football Association.
Training and home games were at Meadowbank or Epping because the club’s iconic Eastwood Oval was still a swamp.
Scotland was a superpower in world football in the 1950s and there were clubs around the world, including London’s Millwall FC, with ties to Scotland or had adopted Scottish motifs.
Eastwood St Andrews was another, adopting as its badge “The Saltire” – a white cross of St Andrew on a navy blue background – that features in the national flag of Scotland.
City of Ryde Councillor, Bernard Purcell is a stalwart club member who recalled the days when boots were heavy and steel-studded, nets were a new invention and the few parents attending games were cajoled into various volunteer roles, from linesmen to laundry women.
“This year we take time to reflect on the extraordinary work of the Lee family of Bertie, Clive, Nigel and Celia,” Clr Purcell said.
“We celebrate Nigel Lee, in particular, for his enormous personal efforts in forming and growing one of the great local clubs.”
In the 1950s, Rugby League was – by far – the most popular sport for boys and Rugby Union continued to hold sway in Sydney’s private school system.
Fast forward 60 years and football has eclipsed rival codes as the largest team sport for boys and girls, along with a barmy army of “soccer mums” and dads who shout encouragement from the sidelines.
Clr Purcell believes football’s success comes down to the game’s flow – free from stoppages from scrums and line-outs and with fewer injuries – from which teamwork is rewarded with an often hard-fought goal.
Then there’s the simplicity – anyone who can kick a ball can enjoy playing football, while any rectangular patch can become a makeshift pitch.
“Soccer – or football as it is formally known – is a game that encapsulates personal skill and team involvement,” he said.
“It relies on players to work with each other and achieve more than the sum of their parts.
“It is a beautiful game because, at its best, the passage of play as the ball is passed from one to the other, and finally in the back of the net, is sublime.”
There’s also a special and universal cultural – some would say, tribal – community that has developed around football, uniting barefoot players on the beaches of Rio with those hacking the ball across ice-covered fields in Reykjavik.
“It welcomes all from the community to pull on their team colours and share a common goal,” Clr Purcell said.
“With great vision, soccer has been opened up to the youngest and the oldest in our community; catering for all ages and skill levels and it has done more.
“Soccer has given ladies, young and old, the chance to play the game themselves in their own competitions or beside the boys if they choose.
“As a coach I marvelled at how young women could match the boys and often outplay them.”
Clr Purcell will be among the many past and present figures who will celebrate Eastwood St Andrews’ history on Saturday and also hopes it will be a day to celebrate what football has given the City of Ryde.
“I wish to congratulate all the region’s soccer players, officials, committee members and involved spectators for making soccer what it is today in Australia, a beautiful game for all,” he said.
“Our communities would be poorer places without sporting clubs and I take my hat off to all the tireless volunteers who help keep sports clubs operating and growing, week in and week out, year in and year out.”