‘Socceroo’: meaning and origin

A blend of soccer and kangaroo, Socceroo is used:
– in the plural as a nickname for the Australian men’s national soccer team;
– in the singular to designate a member of the Australian men’s national soccer team.

The following, for example, is from The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales) of Saturday 26th January 2002:

SOCCER
Magpies court Emerton
London: Premier League club Newcastle may be about to trump Leeds United in the battle for Socceroo Brett Emerton. Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd met Emerton’s father during a promotional tour of Australia last week, according to newspaper reports here.

Nothing seems to support the claim that Socceroo was coined in 1967 by the Australian journalist Tony Horstead. The publications containing the earliest occurrences of Socceroo that I have found show that it originated in 1972 as the name of the mascot of the Australian men’s national soccer team, which was created for the 1974 FIFA World Cup. These publications are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales) of Thursday 4th May 1972:

SOCCEROO

England had “World Cup Willie” in 1966 and, in 1970, “Mexico Pete” was to be seen everywhere in Mexico City.
Now meet “Socceroo”—he is to be the Australian Soccer team’s mascot for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany.
“Socceroo”—a friendly winsome fellow according to the Australian Soccer Federation, whose brainchild he is will be sighted quite a lot in coming months.
His friendly face will appear on car stickers, T-shirts and posters as Australia start their World Cup quest in a round robin tournament against New Zealand, Indonesia and India here next March.
Maybe, too, “Old Soc” will show up in West Germany when the final 16 qualifiers gather there for the Cup finals in about two years.
—ALAN SPEERS

2-: The Biz (Fairfield, New South Wales) of Thursday 11th May 1972—The Biz was a Cumberland newspaper:

Backing for our World Cup attempt

News Limited, of which Cumberland Newspapers is a subsidiary, has financially backed the Australian Soccer team’s attempt to make the final 16 of the World Cup, to be held in Munich in 1974.
News Limited and three other leading companies have given $100,000 to finance an intensive training programme planned by the Australian Soccer Federation.
“Without the magnificent generosity of these companies, the ambitious plan of our federation could never be considered more than a pipe dream,” President of the ASF, Mr. A. T. George said.
“The Federation has been given the financial and administrative backing necessary to train its national team for a place among the final 16 nations competing for one of the most sought-after trophies in sport,” he added.
[…]
The ASF has adopted a mascot for its national team which it has christened the “Socceroo”—a friendly fellow which the federation hopes will become a household name before long.

The earliest occurrence that I have found of Socceroo(s) used to designate (a member of) the Australian men’s national soccer team is from The Age (Melbourne, Victoria) of Wednesday 31st January 1973:

Europe’s 1969 soccer star to visit here
By LAURIE SCHWAB

Petar Jekov, rated the best player in Europe in 1969, will be in the Bulgarian soccer squad to visit Australia next month.
[…]
The 18-man Bulgarian squad scheduled to meet Australia in a three-match series is not Bulgaria’s World Cup squad.
However, European experts rate the tourists higher than the young World Cup players currently preparing for important matches back home.
[…]
The three-match series has been arranged to give Australia’s “Socceroos” a taste of top-class opposition before they tackle Indonesia, Iraq and New Zealand in their World Cup qualifying tournament which starts in Sydney on March 11.

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