FNR DAILY NEWS
“Gunfire would be going off in the back streets and cannon fire on the horizon” : Ray Richards on playing in Vietnam during the war
Former Socceroo Ray Richards recounts the harrowing experience of playing football during the Vietnam War, and the inspiration he still draws from his interactions with the Australian soldiers deployed there.
In an emotional interview with Carlos Alberto Diego on FNR_Football Nation Radio’s Club Socceroo, Richards spoke about the camaraderie formed from the chaos of war.
“Gunfire would be going off in the back streets and cannon fire on the horizon,” Richards said.
The Socceroos had travelled to Vietnam to play in the Vietnam Nationals Day soccer tournament, as well as to provide a boost in morale for the Diggers.
Richards detailed how the soldiers took “no chances”, preventing children from leaving cans of drink on the pavement because it could be a Viet Cong bomb.
“We had two battalions of troops waiting in wings when we played,” Richards said.
The Socceroos would train on the roof of their hotel due to fears of bombs being planted on the pitch.
“At night when we were doing our late session you’d see helicopters dropping flares to light up the city,” Richards said.
Moreover, Richards spoke of the profound respect he has for the soldiers.
“I look at my life and I say, ‘there’s one thing I will regret … about being an Australian – it’s that I won’t be able to die a Digger. Because they were really special … Our blokes were just brilliant over there. The conditions they had to work under … it wasn’t our war, really, but we went there and we did our bit.”
“For people in Australia to turn their backs on our troops was not fair,” he said.
Club Socceroo airs every Monday from 10am (AEDT) hosted by Carlos Alberto Diego on FNR_Football Nation Radio.