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Beloved Football Commentator And Personality Les Murray Dead At 71

The man who invented the phrase 'the world game' will be sorely missed.

31/07/2017 12:53 PM AEST | Updated 31/07/2017 4:24 PM AEST
Fairfax

Les Murray, the revered commentator and broadcaster who to many people was the voice and face of Australian soccer, has died aged 71, after battling illness.

Murray was the host of SBS's The World Game program for many years before retiring in 2014, and was inducted into the Football Federation Australia Hall of Fame in 2003.

SBS CEO and Managing Director Michael Ebeid called Murray "one of Australia's most recognised and loved sporting identities", and was one of many to take to social media to express his condolences.

SBS issued the following statement on its website:

"Iconic SBS football presenter Les Murray AM passed away this morning following a battle with illness.

Les, aged 71, will be remembered not just for his 35-year contribution to football in Australia, but for being a much-loved colleague, mentor and friend who has left a unique legacy.

To say he will sorely missed is an understatement.

Many Australians know Les as Mr Football, who began working with SBS when it launched as a television broadcaster in 1980.

His role went far beyond being a football commentator. The growth, popularity and success of football in Australia today is absolutely a reflection of his passion and advocacy for the game that he loved.

SBS passes on their deepest sympathies to his family, including his partner Maria and his daughters Tania and Natalie. They ask that their privacy is respected during this difficult time."

The broadcaster also republished a blog post written by Murray's long-time mate and commentary box colleague Craig Foster. The post first appeared on the day of Murray's retirement in 2014.

Here's part of that 2014 blog in which Foster sums up what made Murray's life work of promoting soccer in Australia so special:

"In a land of boof and biff, it was an act of great moral strength to face Australia every day, and in showing such respect for the game, allow fellow football lovers to feel the self respect they craved when others tried so hard to take that away.

It took, above all, that most rare of commodities when we are faced with the great challenge to act contrary to prevailing wisdom, to accepted norms, to the bludgeoning voice of the crowd.

In this, Les Murray stood almost alone."

Foster also saved a mention for Murray's work alongside the late Johnny Warren, the iconic Socceroos captain and Murray's great mate:

"Together the dynamic duo double-handedly provided a template for the nation on how to talk about, cover, broadcast, write about, protect, enthuse, evangelise, promote and dream about football."

It's worth noting that Murray didn't just work for a show called The World Game -- he actually coined the phrase.

Born "László Ürge" in Hungary and emigrating to Australia as a young boy, he made it his life's work to bring the passion of Europe to the Australian football scene. And for the most part, he succeeded.

Both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten offered their condolences in light of the news on Monday, with Shorten saying Murray "deserves nothing less" than a NSW state funeral.

"I sincerely hope the state government offers Les Murray's family a state funeral and I certainly think they should," Shorten said in a statement.

"Les is a national icon who did so much to grow the world game and to champion multicultural Australia. He deserves nothing less than the full symphony of tribute and respect.

"Ultimately it's a decision for Les's family, but I think the offer should be made at least. I can think of few people as deserving of this high honour."

Murray is survived by his two daughters.

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