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Sir Bobby Charlton’s death has prompted an outpouring of tributes from around the globe – not least from Australia, where some still remember how the beloved English World Cup winner ended his playing career there.
It may have been a postscript to one of football’s stellar careers but the Manchester United legend ended up becoming the oldest men’s player to feature in top-flight Australian football when he turned out for Sydney’s Blacktown City back in 1980.
Charlton made the last appearance of his record-breaking career for United in 1973 – on the same day his World Cup-winning elder brother Jack also called it a day – but it was seven years later that he returned to grace Australian fields in Perth, Newcastle and Sydney, having already turned 40.
Attracted by enterprising offers at the start of the 1980s when the game was battling to establish itself in Australia and lured a host of glamour players from the English game – including Bobby Moore, George Best and Alan Ball – Charlton was a huge draw.
He made three guest appearances in a series of night games for Perth Azzurri, scoring twice at the age of 42 and drawing a crowd of nearly 5000, who watched him find the net in a win over Gosnells City.
His last appearance for Perth ended in defeat, but it was remembered for a dazzling individual goal from the veteran who intercepted the ball and beat several defenders in a searing run before firing home.
Sir Bobby Charlton playing for Newcastle KB at the International Sports Centre.Credit: Fairfax Photographic
Perth SC, a club that emerged out of the Azzurri, paid tribute to Charlton on social media.
“An icon of the game, it was an honour and privilege to have you wear our sky blue shirt,” the post on X, formerly known as Twitter, said.
During that spell, when Charlton also played one match for the now-defunct Newcastle KB United and another for Blacktown, the footballing legend spent plenty of time away from the pitch promoting the game alongside well-known figures of the day.
Blacktown, who can claim that Charlton scored the last professional goal of his unparalleled career for them on March 9, 1980, against St George, paid tribute to the 86-year-old, who died on Saturday, on their official website on Sunday.
By all accounts, it was a scruffy goal from the great man, then aged 42 years and 150 days – but about 43 years later, Charlton remains the oldest man to score in Australia’s top-flight.
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