The Link Between Indigenous Australia And Soccer You Didn’t Know About

From Matildas’ team members Kyah Simon and Karen Menzies to history-making athletes like Cathy Freeman, Ash Barty, Nicky Winmar and Patty Mills, First Nations athletes have been at the forefront of Australia’s sporting successes.

But did you know that a version of the round ball game was played by Indigenous Australians in 1857?

This week on Blak Matters, Teela Reid and Michael ‘MC’ Christian catch up with Emeritus Professor John Maynard to learn more about the surprising link between soccer and our First Nations.


Soccer in Australia began being played in the late 1880s – way before NRL was being played – with clubs being formed across the nation at the same time as some of England’s greatest clubs: Tottenham, Liverpool and Everson.

“Clubs were formed by British miners in that particular time period and have the same length of time,” John says.

 “One of our greatest ever players was a man from the south coast, Bondi Neal, who came to the coalfields to get work in the mines and was an outstanding goalkeeper.

He’s the first Aboriginal representative soccer player and was picked to play for the Northern Coalfields in a game against Western Australia… he was an extraordinary goalkeeper.”

John says however, the largest sporting landscape has given people an amplified platform for racism, and First Nations players are subjected to terrible treatment even more.

He adds, sport though for First Nations people should be a space where we embrace such a longstanding and rich history.

“It gives them at times with the sporting arena to magnify that, to expand it to a wider audience, but I copped it as a kid in the school ground,” he says.

“I still live in hope this day and age that there is an opportunity in the future that we can all join hands and walk onto a future that is just and equitable for all.

“And you know, say to non-Indigenous people, the greatest treasure this country possesses is a connection to Aboriginal people and 65,000 years of connection to this continent.”

Purchase a copy of Professor Maynard’s book, The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe here.

Blak Matters provides an inclusive, authentic exploration of First Nations issues from a First Nations perspective. Delivered as an honest but positive conversation between friends, MC & Teela Reid, in under 20 minutes. Listen now on the Listnr app.