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Billy Vojtek – an icon of Melbourne Croatia celebrates 50 years

Over 300 guests attended the Billy Vojtek testimonial dinner dance last Saturday evening at the Melbourne Croatia Social Club in honour of one of the club’s most lovable superstars.
The small yet explosive striker played for various incarnations of the club we now know as the Melbourne Knights, but once upon a time, way back in 1960, Billy Vojtek watched his first ever game when the Red, White and Blue of Croatia SC took on Sunshine City at Gardens Reserve in the Metropolitan Division 1 North. Croatia ran out 1-0 winners over Sunshine, but more importantly the love affair between Vojtek and his beloved Croatia was born. He confessed during the night that when he watched the game he said to himself, ‘I want to play for this team, that was my dream.’
Dreams weren’t to come true right away. The following season Vojtek’s father took his sons Jimmy and Billy to Corio Park to play. Croatia was based in Geelong and it wasn’t until 62’ when long time Croatia secretary Frank Burin brought Croatia to Tracey’s Speedway (Maribyrnong Park) in Western Melbourne to play.
The night began with current Knights president Ange Cimera welcoming all guests before the three course dinner was served.
It was then time for the formalities to begin. Knights secretary Melinda Cimera expertly read out Billy Vojtek’s testimonial written by Roy Hay which was also published in GoalWeekly.
She then called upon long time Melbourne Croatia committee member Tomo Boži? and longtime club man Andrew Albert to say a few words about Billy’s importance to the club.
Mr. Boži? talked about how Billy was spotted at training in Footscray Park in 1960 when he was just a scrawny teen. Little did he know that Billy would be crucial in winning the clubs first serious piece of silverware in 1966.
Andrew Albert has been a lifelong friend of Billy’s since they started playing together. Albert brought up the fact that the clubs Golden period from 1968 – 1971 was largely due to the contribution of Vojtek and his immense presence.
Albert among other things said; “It was extremely important for our club to get the world to hear about the plight of Croatians living under communism in Yugoslavia. Billy Vojtek travelled the world and was the only Croatian in the Australian team at the time. He went from Korea, Greece to Mexico. He was not only representing our club, but our name and our people – that’s only part of the reason he was so important to us. He was, by the way, a superb player.”
Even current Knights president Ange Cimera got into the mood of reminiscing when he spoke of his youth and growing up in Ballarat. “Croatia Melbourne was for us, like watching Manchester United, they were the glamour team for us. I remember when Victoria came to play in Ballarat in those times and everyone was talking about these two Croatian boys that were playing for Croatia, they were Billy and his brother Jimmy. When I moved to Melbourne in 1969 watching Croatia play, and watching Billy beat players, score goals and winning us games off his own boot was something special. He is still to this day at every one of our home games and I only wish that some of our other former players had the same passion as Billy.”
It was then that the man himself took to the microphone and had the audience in his pocket with his amazing tales, but also his singing talents.
“This is my club. Croatia was number one for me, I am honoured that I played for the mighty Croatia and that this place became my home, I had so many beautiful times. Many players have moved on and some of them are here tonight, but life goes on. The people of this club have been such a big part of my life. I love my club, my fans, my friends – when I played I loved our club and colours so much that I hated the other teams. I would do anything for Croatia to win. I thank everybody for supporting me throughout my career and giving me a chance to play. I love football and playing the game I love for the team I love was a dream come true. I hope this club, my club, our club, goes on forever and ever.”
Billy is also known as an avid songwriter and he performed an stirring rendition of a song about his life as a footballer to the delight of the crowd.
Vojtek was soon after presented with a plaque inscribed with the simple words; In recognition of 50 years of service to the Melbourne Croatia Soccer Club – Billy Vojtek.
The down to earth nature of the man does not really correlate to the amazing heights he took his club, Croatia Melbourne. Coupled with his career with the Socceroos, he is truly a great man to have around the club. The Melbourne Knights are immensely proud to say that Billy Vojtek is truly an icon of Melbourne Croatia.

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