Legendary football broadcaster and icon of the “beautiful game” Les Murray has been honoured at a state funeral at Sydney’s Saint Mary’s Cathedral.
Murray, known as Mr Football, died last month at age 71.
The funeral, attended by more than 1000 including many Australian football greats, paid tribute to Murray’s contribution to the game and to Australia’s multiculturalism.
Many wore white, to signify a converging of cultures, and instead of flowers guests were asked to donate the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Murray, who was born Laszlo Urge, was considered the face and voice of football in Australia and became synonymous with SBS, where he worked for more than 37 years.
The fact that when people think of football in Australia Murray and the SBS immediately come to mind is an “astounding testament”, said SBS director of sport Ken Shipp.
“Football, SBS, Les, and this is no exaggeration – it changed the nation,” Mr Shipp said.
“He saw the huge value that sport, particularly football, could be as a vehicle for breaking down barriers and uniting people.”
But while he was serious about football, he never took himself too seriously, Mr Shipp said.
“He had that charming quality of levelling a room, no matter who you were, you always got the same Les.”
Murray, born in Hungary in 1956, was often asked why he did not pursue a career himself as a professional football player and he always said he was saving it for his next life.
“Playing of course with the Hungarian team,” Mr Shipp said.
“His training starts today.”
The NSW Premier and Governor were in attendance as well as a who’s who of soccer, including veteran Socceroo Tim Cahill, former Socceroos Nick Carle and Craig Moore, Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou, Brisbane Roar coach John Aloisi and Central Coast Mariners coach Paul Okon.
Former football player and now SBS commentator Craig Foster used his eulogy to push for FIFA World Cup hosting rights for Australia.
“This final farewell is a call to arms to the football community … for Australia to become a football nation and to win the ultimate prize – the FIFA World Cup,” he said.
“Les believed it was possible and … it can be done.
“Football and Australia are a match made in heaven.”
Murray an OAM recipient and a ‘party animal’
Murray, a Member of the Order of Australia, leaves partner Maria and daughters Tania and Natalie.
Tania gave a personal insight into her father, describing him as a “party animal”.
“He loved late nights, he loved his rock and roll and he loved his ‘scotchawiches’,” she said.
“So when the chips are down, or you’re in the thick of a great celebration as we are here today, to use one of dad’s favourite expressions, ‘we must always kick on’.”
Natalie spoke of the life lessons she learnt from her father.
“One of the greatest things he taught me was that the world is one community, one family,” she said.
“He loved nothing more than seeing people from all over the world unite, in peace and joy.”
She summed him up as “a fighter, but also a great accepter”.
“One of his lessons that’s never been more important than right now is to accept the things we cannot change,” she said.
Murray’s family took part in a ceremony of flowers which involved putting many different flowers, representing different cultures, into a bowl.
Water was then poured around the flowers symbolically linking all the world’s continents and nations.
A memory table featured at the front of the cathedral with a soccer ball that Murray and his grandchildren played with, along with a 2005 Socceroos jersey.
After the memorial, as pallbearers carried the casket down the steps of the cathedral, Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits was played.