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John Norman Warren, MBE, OAM (17 May 1943 – 6 November 2004) was an Australian football player, coach, administrator, writer and broadcaster. He was known as Captain Socceroo for his passionate work to promote the game in Australia. The award for the best player in the A-League is named the Johnny Warren Medal in his honour.

Early life

Warren grew up in the suburb of Botanymarker in Sydney and had two elder brothers, Geoff and Ross.

He attended Cleveland St. High School, Botany, later becoming the school vice-captain.

Playing career

Club career

After playing junior football for Botany Methodists and Earlwood Wanderers Warren joined Canterbury-Marrickville as a fifteen year old in 1959. Initially he played in the club's third grade team before being promoted to the first grade later in the year.

In 1963 Warren transferred to St. George-Budapest. In a 12 year stint at St. George Warren won three NSW State League grand finals, one premiership and two state cups. His final action as a player was to score a match-winning goal for St. George in the 1974 NSW State League Grand Final. Immediately after scoring the goal he substituted himself off.

International career

Warren made his full international debut for Australia in November 1965 against Cambodia in Phnom Penhmarker.

In 1967 Warren captained the national team for the first time in a match against New Zealand in Saigonmarker. He went on to captain Australia in 24 internationals.

Coaching career

In 1974 Warren was a player-coach with St. George-Budapest.

As well as helping found Canberra City, he served as the team's first coach in 1977 and 1978.

After retirement


Warren worked in television commentating football for the Australian Broadcasting Corporationmarker and Special Broadcasting Service television networks. It was at SBS where he made his mark, appearing on a number of football analysis shows including On the Ball and The World Game.

Warren wept openly on national television in 1997 when two very late goals by Iran resulted in a 2-2 draw against the Socceroos in the final World Cup qualifying match and sent Iran to the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

Gold Creek

While in Canberra, John and his business partners acquired control of the Gold Creek Function and Entertainment Centre based around the historic Gold Creek Homesteadmarker (located in present-day Ngunnawalmarker). The function centre was one of the National Capital's premier function venues.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, numerous international visitors including members of Brazil’s Under 19s soccer team travelled to Gold Creek to get their first taste of Australian country life. Annual soccer camps were also held there under the auspices of the Australian Soccer Federation. Over a period of ten years, upwards of 10,000 teenagers from around the nation completed the two-week training camps.

Opposition to the OFC

Warren frequently argued for abolition of the Oceania Football Confederation, claiming that the OFC offered nothing to either the world game nor to the nations that comprised the confederation. Many Australians agreed with Warren believing that Australia was so dominant within the OFC that the Socceroos suffered from a lack of serious competition. The lack of competition in the OFC was exemplified by the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualification results that featured 11–0, 22–0 and 31–0 scorelines against OFC opponents. At that time, The OFC did not have a direct qualification route to the World Cup. Instead, the OFC champion had to play another sudden-death series against a single team from either South America or Asia for the final World Cup berth. Warren favoured a merger between the Oceania and Asian confederations that would allow the OFC nations to play in a regular qualification series, instead of the sudden-death matches playoffs. After the Crawford Report of which he was a committee member of, Australia was moved to the AFC in 2006.
The Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters cover

Struggle for National Success

Warren's publicly held belief was that if Australia's strong sporting tradition was focused on the sport then Australia could be a world power in the game. One of his famous quotes on the matter was "I'm sick of us saying, 'When are we going to qualify for the World Cup'? When are we going to win the World Cup? ... Call me a dreamer." His comments came shortly after Australia had defeated England 3-1 in a friendly featuring a full-strength English side (albeit with 11 substitutions made at half-time), and several Confederations Cup wins over France and Brazil when Australia took third place at the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup in a 1-0 playoff win over Brazil.

Warren claimed that these results showed that Australia was a much more powerful football nation than many gave it credit for. At the time, Australia was reigning world champion in the other international codes - Rugby Union and rugby league.

In 2002, Warren published a best selling book, Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters, An Incomplete Biography of Johnny Warren & Soccer In Australia which traced the growth of football(soccer) in Australia, especially in the post-WWII years. The title refers to alleged sexist, racist and homophobic attitudes towards football exhibited frequently by many Australians and especially the major city media in Australia through this period.

Nevertheless, Warren predicted that the Australian national team would attain consistent international success. He famously expressed a desire to say 'I told you so' to the team's detractors: these words have been adopted as a slogan by Australian football fans.


After smoking heavily for most of his life, in 2003 Warren publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Several months later FIFAmarker president Sepp Blatter presented a frail Warren with the FIFA Centennial Order of Merit for his services to the game in Australia.

His last public appearance was made during the launch of the rebranded Australian domestic football league, the A-League, which replaced the previous National Soccer League.

Weeks before death, Warren was asked what he wanted his sporting legacy to be - his answer "I Told You So", a phrase which has become a catch-cry in Australian football and during the 2006 FIFA World Cup appeared on the scoreboard in the backdrop of the SBS World Cup studio.

He died of respiratory complications related to his cancer on 6 November 2004, at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. He was awarded a full state funeral, the first to be held for a sportsman.


The documentary Johnny Warren's Football Mission, released in 2006, features interviews with his former teammates, family, friends and football journalists.




  • New South Wales Grand Final Runner Up: 1960

St. George-Budapest
  • New South Wales Champions: 1972

See also


External links

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