In 1961, John Moriarty was the first Indigenous Australian to be called up to the Socceroos…but just after he was selected for a tour of south-east Asia, FIFA banned Australia, ending his international career before it even began.
In the new issue of FourFourTwo, he relives his life in football and how the sport and its people reached out to him when his own country denied him even a vote.
When he was four years old, he was taken from his mother and his birthplace –Borroloola, a remote town in the Northern Territory, 1056 km from Darwin. He was taken away to Mulgoa on the foot of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney to live in a boy’s home for Aboriginal children before another move to a South Australian home.
Moriarty would go on to play football for Port Thistle (1954-1955), Port Adelaide (1956-1958), Juventus Adelaide (1960-1965) and he also had a brief stint with the strong Prague team in the 1960s while he also represented South Australia 17 times.
Unfortunately his career was cut short and he retired after the 1965 season with Juventus Adelaide at 27 after colliding with a goalkeeper.
Moriarty remembers clearly the power that football had over him at the time.
“It just put me out of my mind,” he says. “It opened up a whole new world for me, the boundaries were thrown open. It’s not just a local game, it’s an international game.
“I felt very much that I was on a high, obviously, I felt that I was breaking new ground for myself and for the game, and for my game particularly.”
Today Moriarty has returned to his home community of Borroloola in remote Northern Territory and three years ago set up John Moriarty Football which is part of the not-for-profit Nangala Project with his wife Ros, and son James. It provides support, training, development and pathways for Indigenous footballers aged six to 16 in Borroloola and the Robinson River.
Get the latest edition of Four Four Two magazine to learn more about the exciting and ground-breaking work that they do in the indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.
This article appears courtesy of Four Four Two