SYDNEY, November 17 – Australian football’s long-time chairman Frank Lowy stepped down Tuesday after helping reform the sport and grow its popularity during 12 years at the helm.
The 85-year-old property and retail tycoon is considered the godfather of the game in Australia, establishing the National Soccer League in the 1970s before walking away disillusioned.
He was coaxed back to head up Football Federation Australia in 2003 and under his watch the Socceroos qualified for three successive World Cups in Germany, South Africa and Brazil.
Lowy also oversaw Australia’s transition to the Asian Football Confederation from Oceania and was a crucial figure behind establishing the domestic A-League.
He will also be remembered for the country’s failed bid to host the 2022 World Cup, winning just one vote from FIFA’s 22 delegates after spending Aus$45 million (US$32 million).
“How do I feel? Do I feel sad? Yes. Do I feel happy? Maybe. Will I miss this job? Yes. Do I feel proud? Absolutely,” said Lowy, who is handing the reigns to his son Steven.
“No journey is perfect; we’ve had our shares of ups and downs. But who can deny the progress we have made in football?
“Now is the right time for me to go. We are entering a new phase of growth for the game and now is the time for new leadership.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hailed Lowy for “instilling in Australians your love and passion for the game”.
“From five-year-olds at the local park, professionals in the stadiums and many of us watching on TV are in your debt,” he said.