THIS weekend marks the 120th anniversary of the first official football matches played in Western Australia.
National Premier Leagues WA clubs will exchange commemorative pennants before their matches to mark the occasion.
The Round 10 matches will pit Armadale against Stirling Lions at Alfred Skeet Reserve, Perth Glory against Balcatta at Ashfield Arena, Cockburn City against ECU Joondalup at Dalmatinac Park, Bayswater City against Floreat Athena at Finance 365 Stadium, Inglewood United against Perth SC at Inglewood Stadium and Sorrento against Subiaco at Percy Doyle Reserve.
WA’s first competitive matches were played on May 30, 1896, and involved Fremantle Wanderers against Crusaders at Weld Square, in Perth, and Perth FC against Civil Service.
Football Hall of Fame committee member Richard Kreider, who is WA’s foremost football historian, recently discovered the Perth and Civil Service match was played on land that is currently the site of Football West’s headquarters behind Perth Oval.
Since the first season when four teams competed for a title eventually won by Fremantle Wanderers, football has flourished in WA.
With about 42,000 registered players, 250 clubs, some 600 referees and more than 3000 coaches, the game has reached an unprecedented level of popularity.
Clubs, some of them built on the initiative of European migrants, have become important community hubs, while at State team level women’s and men’s teams have captured Australian titles.
The best players in WA have also taken on the biggest teams in the world with the likes of Manchester United, AC Milan and Chelsea having visited Perth to play against the WA State team.
WA has also been a stepping stone for players to reach towards the A-League and beyond with many achieving careers in Asia, Britain and Europe.
Star players such as Stan Lazaridis and Samantha Kerr have used WA football as a springboard to much higher achievements.
The latest promising stars include Perth Glory’s Josh Risdon and Trent Sainsbury, who was man of the match in Australia’s Asian Cup Triumph last year, Kerr and Lisa De Vanna, who has captained the Matildas.
Acting Football West head of competitions Chris Beech said football had played an increasingly important role in the lives of thousands of Western Australians since those early matches.
“WA football is in such a strong position today because of those solid foundations and the hard work of so many people over 120 years,” Beech said.
“We are experiencing unprecedented participation rates, while more and more people are being attracted to roles as referees and coaches, both male and female.
“Football’s worldwide popularity and its reach into the local community will ensure the game’s continued growth.”
The game’s history has been meticulously documented by the Football Hall of Fame WA, who will celebrate their 20th anniversary on November 26 at Crown Perth.
For more information, go to www.footballhalloffamewa.com.au.