Sports broadcaster Les Murray, widely recognised as the voice of football in Australia, has died at the age of 71, following a “long period of illness”.
Murray, who was born in Hungary in 1945, joined SBS in 1980 as a subtitle writer and went on to host a variety of football programs and events, including the FIFA World Cup and the popular The World Game show.
He enjoyed a famous on-air partnership with legendary Socceroo Johnny Warren and, at a time no major networks wanted to touch the sport, Murray and his colleague were the leading voices for the sport in Australia.
“SBS is sad to advise that earlier today, Les Murray passed away after a long period of illness,” SBS said in a statement.
“Les will be remembered not just for his 35-year contribution to football in Australia, but for being a much-loved colleague, mentor and friend, who has left a unique legacy.
“To say he will be sorely missed is an understatement.
“We pass on our deepest sympathies to his family, including his partner Maria and his daughters Tania and Natalie. They ask that their privacy is respected during this difficult time.”
SBS managing director Michael Ebeid added: “No one better embodied what SBS represents than Les Murray.
“From humble refugee origins, he became one of Australia’s most recognised and loved sporting identities.
“This is a devastating loss for all of us at SBS.”
Murray – a refugee who arrived here in 1957 a year after the Russian invasion of his home country – hosted the coverage of eight World Cups, including the Socceroos’ history-making 2006 campaign.
— Football Australia (@FFA) July 31, 2017
Murray left his role as SBS’ chief football host in 2014 but still appeared on the network on a semi-regular basis, while he also wrote columns for their website.
Earlier this month, Murray’s last piece for SBS was published, in which he wrote about the significant impact migrants had on Australian soccer.
“There would be no new football without old soccer, which was kept alive and breathing mostly by immigrants,” he wrote.
Murray was also SBS’ head of sport and a member of FIFA’s Ethics Committee during his career.
He received a Member of the Order of Australia for services to sports journalism in 2006 and, three years later, was given a lifetime achievement award by the Australian Sports Commission.
Away from football, Murray was fiercely passionate about the plight of refugees and Australia’s migrant community.
He was linked to Australia’s ill-fated bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup after introducing the colourful and controversial Peter Hargitay to then-FFA boss Frank Lowy.