The Melbourne Knights truly came to prominence in Australian soccer in the 1990’s, however, the journey started from a point of total obscurity some 40 years earlier in the western suburbs of Melbourne.
In April of 1953, a small group of immigrants from Croatia gathered in a cramped weatherboard house in Leeds St., Footscray, and decided to legitimise their occasional game of social soccer by registering themselves as a club with the Victorian Soccer Federation.
Respectfully known as the “club’s fathers”, each and every one a modern day George Washington, the handful of young lads quickly started organizing themselves using what little
finance they could spare from their meager wages to prepare for their first outing.
Indeed, even players for the new team, then known as SC Croatia, were far and few between, and as a result many a number of players traveled from as far abreast as Geelong, and when the need for players was still not met, an expedition was mounted to travel to Northeastern Victoria to interview potential players residing in the immigrant camp located at Bonegilla.
Not every boasting player snatched from Bonegilla ended up playing however, it seemed that in their attempt to gain the confidence of the interviewers and potential teammates, they overrated their abilities. Nevertheless, further trips were staged and a number of players were acquired.
It was this point in particular that became a cornerstone to the foundation of the club, it was extensively a soccer club, but also acted as a social and cultural institution and meeting place for the many arriving refugees from post-war Croatia.
On the 9th April, 1953, a church service, blessing the new team was held, and on the 10th April, 1953, the first whistle was blown, the first ball kicked, and as the first goal was scored, it’s more than certain that someone in the crowd commented that, “These boys play pretty good”.
Little could anyone imagine just how good they could become, or to what dizzying heights this club would eventually climb to, not only locally, but also nationally, and eventually internationally.
Finding it’s feet during the remainder of the 1950’s, the small club prospered, new ships arriving at Station Pier were met by club scouts, players and officials who in most instances were one of the same.
A simple tap on the shoulder followed by two questions, “Where are you from?”, and “Can you play football?”, was all it took, you either became a potential player or a new supporter, and the next thing you knew, your family, yourself, and all your belongings were being shoved into the back of a car and driven to one of the many new half-way supporters homes set up in Footscray.