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Loss for WA football community

Football Hall of Fame WA

It has been a sad week for the WA football community with the passing of former WA Junior Soccer Association (WA JSA) President Harry Croft and influential coach John Birighitti.

Mr Croft, who was president of the WA JSA for over 20 years, passed away on January 23 at the age of 91.
During his time as head of the juniors he was credited with transforming the association into a body of great strength as the numbers of clubs and players soared. Mr Croft also enjoyed a sting as Chairman of the National Junior Council.

Photo: Harry Croft (courtesy of Football Hall of Fame WA)

Football West Life Member Bob Brown paid tribute to Mr Croft, speaking to the Football Hall of Fame WA.

“Harry became the President of the juniors at the time of a huge migration from Europe and the amount of youngsters wanting to play the game soared dramatically,” he said.

“He was certainly the right man at the right time to cope with this explosion in numbers.”

In 1996 Mr Croft was one of the original inductees into the Football Hall of Fame WA and was later inducted into the Australian Hall of Fame in 1999. He was made a Life Member of the WA Junior Association in 1978, and was also a Life Member of Football West.

Photo: Bobby Charlton and John Birighitti (courtesy of Football Hall of Fame WA)

Mr Birighitti, aged 76, tragically lost his battle with cancer on January 20 this year.

He famously coached Bobby Charlton when the Manchester United star was a guest player with Perth Azzurri in 1980.

Mr Birighitti was an influential coach in Western Australia for over 40 years, winning numerous club titles and helping establish the WA Coaches Association.

Starting as a player with Perth Azzuri and then Athena, he decided to turn his focus to coaching at age 23.

He established Azzurri’s influential junior set-up before joining Bayswater United as senior coach and led them from the third division to the first division, twice winning the Coach of the Year award in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

He also coached Inglewood Kiev before returning to Azzurri as the club’s technical director.

Football West offers deepest sympathies to the families and friends of Mr Croft and Mr Birighitti.