The Pecking Order Blog

One Fantastic Goal: A complete history of football in Australia

Post by Jake Shorter / 21 March 2017 / 0 Comments

Australian Football Library

Book Review

One Fantastic Goal: A complete history of football in Australia By Trevor Thompson

Who’s it for?

This is the sort of book that we think all Australia football fans will get something from. People particularly interested in our football history should give this book a go.

Cody’s rating – 6.5 out of 10

Jake’s rating – 7.5 out of 10


Where to Get it?

Most online book stores seem to be out of this book, which may mean they’ve stopped printing. You can, however, pick up a used copy on Abe Books by clicking here.

From the Blurb

In late 2005, 83,000 fans hugged and danced and cheered in one moment of shared ecstasy. John Aloisi’s goal had secured a place for Australia in the World Cup for only the second time in history.

Those wild celebrations marked not just a great victory on that night but the opening of a new horizon for football’s progress after years in the wilderness.  One Fantastic Goal is the only comprehensive history of Australia’s unique football story.

Despite a connection with the game that is longer than any country in the world outside Britain, football (soccer) in Australia has been marginalized as a pastime of immigrants – first the British, then the ‘wogball’-playing Europeans of the post-War era.

Now a revolution has begun with the establishment of a dynamic national league, a new Australian identity in Asian competition, a huge squad of locals starring in overseas competitions, and a return to the World Cup. Football in Australia has gone global, making it the perfect multicultural fit for the world’s favourite game.

One Fantastic Goal is the dramatic story of the rise of Australia’s footballers from sporting fringe dwellers at home to superstars on the international stage. The path to Australian football’s newfound maturity is a fascinating and eventual tale of struggle, heartache and sweet success.



Our review

Jake –

This book provides a great summary of where we’ve come from as a football nation, and a reminder of the troubles we’ve faced in the form of poor administrators, self-interested clubs with too much power, naivete, and at times a fear of change. But it is also a story of a sport which is finally starting to find its feet and live up to some of the potential that passionate football fans believe in – and it has been a long time coming. It’s a shame the story in this book ended in 2006 and didn’t get a chance to talk about the impact of the A-League and follow on from the 2006 World Cup.

The author does a fantastic job of finding the sweet spot between recounting our history in a way that gets the important information across, and sharing his opinion and interpretation of certain events and people (e.g. he’s clearly not a fan of Jimmy Shoulder’s appointment as Socceroos coach!).

I enjoyed hearing about the careers of some of Australia’s greatest players and the impact they had on both the Socceroos and the National Soccer League (and many of them are still having an impact in various forms today). And I think the book will give a greater appreciation to younger football fans of the World Cup qualification struggle, and why that John Aloisi penalty in November 2005 meant so much.

My only issue with the book is that, of the three sections it’s been broken in to, I thought it only really needed the first. The last two were essentially a repeat of information already shared, and while they went into greater detail, I didn’t think it fit with the flow of the book.

Overall it’s a great read for Australian football fans interested in our history, and well worth taking the time to read it. 


Cody –

At times the book can be a little hard to get through. If you’re not interested in specific players, matches and clubs of Australian football’s past then you may start to get vibes of being back in school reading through a book that you’re not that keen on. The book is broken down into three sections, which make it necessary for the author to cover the same ground quite a few times. I’m quite slow to catch on to things, so for me this wasn’t a problem. Maybe if all books were like this I’d retain more information!

The best way to summarise how I feel is by quoting a section of Les Murray’s forward to the book:

“…few in this country, or in any other country, realize just how old the Australian game is and what a rich and colourful history it has.”


Some interesting tidbits

– The first recorded game in Australia took place in 188

– The missing Ashes trophy. Australia and New Zealand had an Ashes trophy forged in 1923. Its whereabouts today is unknown. P44 – NZ and Australia use to play each other:

Australia won its first international tournament in 1967. It was called the Vietnam National Day tournament and was hosted in Saigon in 1967. From the book “Participation in the Saigon tournament was part of a government backed policy of flying the flag in wartime Vietnam and the sounds of battle could be heard during matches at Saigon’s Cong Hua Stadium.

– When Australia beat South Korea to win the above tournament it was the first mention of our nickname ‘Socceroos’. This was coined by the News Limited journalist Tony Horstead.

– Australia won the first ever FIFA golden goal game. This was in 1993 when we hosted the World Youth Championship. The win was against Uruguay in the quarter finals.

– Australia is the only country in the world, which has had to travel to every continent to play in qualifying matches.

– 1923 was the first time the Australian football team stood to attention for a pre-match rendition of Advance Australia Fair. It was against a touring China. The band then had an awkward few moments while they considered what to play for the visitors before launching in to a hearty version of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.

– We all remember when Graham Poll issued three yellow cards to Josip Simunic before he was sent off in the 2006 World Cup against Australia. In the 1974 World Cup Australia benefitted from a similar incident, when Ray Richards stayed on for four extra minutes after receiving his second yellow card against Chile.

– Harry Kewell debuted for the Socceroos at left back as a 17 year old.

– When Australia defeated Uruguay to reach the 2006 World Cup, it was the first time a qualification place had been decided by a penalty shootout.