Figures of past and present gathered to celebrate Melbourne Croatia’s 60th anniversary on Saturday the 1st of June, as part of an eventful gala at the Dom.
A mixture of young and old was on hand to commemorate the history and future of one of Australian soccer’s most storied clubs, making for a memorable evening for all who attended.
One could not help but sense the hint of defiantness in the air, when taking into perspective proposed changes to Australian football at state level, as the Knights showed off its proud history.
Present on the night were many dignitaries which included the Member for Maribyrnong Bill Shorten, (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation), Member for Yuroke Liz Beatie, Cr John Šipek from the City of Moonee Valley , President of AHD Melbourne Mr Ante Juri?, presidents and representatives of countless soccer clubs from Melbourne such as, Dinamo St Albans, Dandenong City Hajduk, North Geelong Warriors, Strathmore Split, Gospi? Bears, St Albans Vukovar, Melbourne Tornado and HNK Mostar together with a strong delegation from Adelaide Croatia who celebrated their 60th anniversary last year, and Mr Mirko Furjani? Honorary President of the Croatian Soccer Federation of Australia and New Zealand.
Also present on the night were major sponsors Ivan and Kathy Filipovi? from I&D Constructions, Miro Mikrut from Cedevtia, Steve Karluši? from Cimera Butchers and Ivan Jeli?i? from AHD Geelong.
In his short but very insightful address to the guests on the night Minister Bill Shorten certainly showed his appreciation to not only the Melbourne Knights for their achievement, but to the Croatian community and their contribution to the wider community noting that it would be impossible to imagine Australia without Croatians and their input. He also reaffirmed how proud he was that the Labor Party at the time was one of the first Governments outside of Europe to recognise Croatia’s newfound freedom and independence.
Ms Liz Beattie also congratulated the Knights on their wonderful achievement and went on to describe what the colours red, white and blue meant for her. White is the colour of peace, which Croatia now enjoys, red is the colour of bravery which Croats are known for and blue is the colour of loyalty, for once you make a friend in a Croat, you have a loyal friend for life. She concluded in saying ‘Long live the colours red, white and blue and long live Croatia’, which was met with thunderous applause.
Mr Ante Juri? President of AHD Melbourne, who are also one of the major sponsors of the Melbourne Knights, spoke of the sisterhood that existed between the two clubs and from their inception back in the early 1950’s, Melbourne Knights and AHD Melbourne have supported each other and will no doubt continue to do so. Mr Juri? then surprised everyone that was present on the night announcing that AHD Melbourne was donating all the costs for the evening to Melbourne Knights as a gift for their 60th anniversary.
In total the donation is estimated to be approximately $20,000 in value; a gesture that was clearly appreciated by the Knights and all the guests present.
In a thoroughly researched video montage of former administrators, long-time committee member Tomo Boži? evoked this sense, reminding us how the club always had to struggle with the club’s governors to fight for what it believed, and effectively still does.
Current Knights chairman, An?elko Cimera, touched on the topic, believing the club’s struggle against structural changes to the game is a natural conclusion for members who have its best interests at heart.
“We had 86% of our members vote against submitting an expression of interest in an EGM, and whatever happens, the club will still be here,” he explained.
“The people at this club and the community are what is most important, and that can’t be bought.”
Knights captain Adam Žili? was on hand to provide thoughts about not only representing the club as its leader on the pitch, but also the club’s status in the changing shape of Australian football.
“It’s obviously a massive honour to just represent the club, and tonight sort of hits home. Because you can talk about the club until you’re blue in the face, but tonight we saw old photos, heard stories and saw the reactions,” Žili? said.
“With those memories and that sort of culture, new leagues won’t matter to this club even 60 years from now. I’m sure that people would want to play for Melbourne Knights in the 10th division, rather than some regional team in this new elite competition.”
Ante Smoli?, the only person who seemed capable of filling the role with his expansive knowledge of the club’s history and turn of phrase, did a remarkable job as MC for the gala, interviewing figures past and present, as well as providing arguably the highlight of the night, an impromptu musical performance in “I Still Call Croatia Home”.
As well as launching an initial honour roll, the Knights also used the gala to select its Miss Croatia for 2013, with Marija Jelini? given the honour to act on behalf of the club in this historic year.
“It’s beyond words. It’s such a privilege to be chosen in such a big year for the club, and I hope I can do the club, its members and fans proud representing them,” Jelini? said.
Instead of a pageant, those at the Knights again saw fit to select someone who truly was an extension of the club, in what has been a refreshing shift from ostentation and superficiality displayed by some other clubs in recent years.
“I do feel its better to choose someone who is truly devoted to the club. In saying that, other clubs have had some great representatives over the years, but I’m happy I’m representing this one.”
Honour Roll Inductees
AHD Melbourne – Founded by club members and on initiative of the Association
Perica Filipovi? – First club President, Player and Captain who served for six consecutive years
Tony ?urakovic – First club secretary, club was formed in his house in Footscray
AHD Geelong – On behalf of the Geelong community for the time Croatia spent in Geelong in late 50’s early 60’s
Tomo Boži? – Long time committee member, contributor and fan of the club
Enver Begovi? – Long serving Chairman, President, Patron and benefactor of the club
Duje Zemunik – Player, Coach, Committee member and life time supporter of the club
Frank Burin – The icon of the club – held every role within the club’s Executive Committee for over 35 years
Ivica Koki? – First Chairman and later President whilst also being President of AHD Melbourne
Fr. Josip Kasi? – Instrumental Croatian Catholic Priest who held together and fostered the Croatian community through the three cornerstones of our community, the Church, the Dom and the Soccer club.
Billy Vojtek – First player of Croatian extraction to play for Australia and Croatia SC superstar
Horst Rau – Longest serving Captain and Team of the Century Captain?
Hammy McMeechan – First Croatia player to play for Australia in 1965
Josip Sigur – Long serving President who steered and propelled Croatia’s return after being expelled in 1972. Instrumental in Essendon Lions takeover as well as the purchase of the land at Knights Stadium
Steve Dražeti? – Unsung, behind the scenes legal hero of the club
Branko Filipi – Honorary Life Chairman of the Club
Steve Mandeki? – President at the time of the first NSL Championship as well as 15+ years of service on the Executive Committee
An?elko Cimera – President at the time of the second NSL Championship and longest serving President of all time
Jack Skoblar – Long time contributor to the club, President, Committee member and working committee member
Josip Biški? – Games record holder in NSL, 282 games – plus awarded as Team of the Century Vice-Captain
Mirko Rasto?i? – Ground manager, Gear Steward, Boss of the Change room
Andrew Marth – Captain for both NSL championships and long serving player, captain and coach
The Melbourne Knights FC would like to remind all supporters that the nomination process for further Honour Roll inductees will be announced shortly.