Socceroos greats laud Arok's influence

Anna Harrington
·3-min read

A monumental figure in Australian football, Frank Arok has been remembered as a man who transformed the Socceroos and gave them the belief they could and should beat anyone.

Former Socceroos coach Arok died in Serbia due to illness on Tuesday aged 88, with tributes pouring in from across Australian football.

Arok enjoyed a brilliant coaching career at club level but is best known for leading the Socceroos from 1983 to 1990, coaching them to 41 wins and 22 draws from 89 games - 48 of which were 'A' internationals.

"I don't think you would ever be able to repeat somebody like him, he was so special in the fact that he was the one who created 'mad dogs'," former Socceroos captain Paul Wade told RSN Breakfast Club.

"He convinced us that losing 1-0 wasn't good enough.

"For years we got beaten 1-0 by England (and thought), 'Oh, but gee, didn't we do well?'

"Well, for Frank it wasn't good enough.

"Some of his training sessions, his pre-match talks, he was covered in sweat, he was so passionate.

"A lot of the time we didn't understand what he said, but boy did we know that we were going out to play for our country.

"You always thought when you played against the Socceroos you had to be at your best to beat us because we were convinced that we were going to win because of that passion."

A highlight of Arok's tenure was a 4-1 win over world champions Argentina at the Bicentennial Gold Cup in 1988.

"He masterminded that one and after the game we were going off, and Graham Arnold's saying, 'Tell my wife I'm not coming home tonight'," Wade said.

"We were just going nuts, and Frank Arok said, 'You go and have a drink boys, because you will never produce a result like this again."

Arok also played a leading role in forging successful careers for young talent - including Robbie Slater, who he "discovered" as a teenager and brought across to NSL club St George.

"(If it wasn't for Arok) I'm pretty sure it (my career) doesn't happen," Slater told Sky Sports Breakfast.

"I don't see anyone in Australian football at that stage ... that would have had the capacity to pull someone from third grade in Auburn and literally four months later (have them) playing in the National Soccer League and travelling to Adelaide and travelling to Melbourne as a 17-year-old.

"It was an era - and he started that era - of young players starting to play."

Slater described his mentor as a "winner", while Wade remembered the lengths Arok went to in preparing to face Yugoslavia at the 1988 Olympics - including making players train in the St George Stadium car park.

Australia would go on to win that game 1-0.

"Can you imagine asking the Socceroos to train on a grass car park?" Wade said.

"He was always way ahead of everybody else and we went along for the ride."