Football: He played against Stanley Matthews - twice

The  1954 New Zealand football team. Bill Westerveld is in the middle of the back row. Photo...
The 1954 New Zealand football team. Bill Westerveld is in the middle of the back row. Photo supplied.
Former Dunedin man Bill Westerveld played football for both New Zealand and Australia in the 1950s, before losing an arm in a car accident. He tells his story to Gavin Bertram.

Facing English football great Stanley Matthews was a clear highlight of Bill Westerveld's playing days.

But it's just one entry on a list of accomplishments in the sport the former Dunedin man can claim.

Others include representing the Netherlands at under-18 level, playing for both New Zealand and Australia, and club success across the Tasman.

Now in his 80s, Westerveld is still interested in the game in Australia and is a life member of the A-League's Central Coast Mariners.

''I obviously miss playing soccer badly, and I'll do anything to promote the game,'' he said from his retirement village, several kilometres from Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, New South Wales.

Even 64 years after leaving the Netherlands, Westerveld retains a distinct Dutch accent.

He played as a midfielder in his homeland, and was good enough to represent the country at the 1948 Fifa youth tournament in England.

The Netherlands side beat the Republic of Ireland and Italy on the way to facing England in the London final, in which it was beaten 3-2.

Westerveld could have pursued the game professionally in Europe.

He instead chose to move to New Zealand in 1951, as part of the assisted package scheme that brought more than 6000 Dutch immigrants to this country.

Dunedin's Mornington Football Club was his home during the three years he was a New Zealand resident.

Northern was the dominant Dunedin club in the early 1950s, but Westerveld said Mornington ''did reasonably well''.

''It was a nice bunch of fellas, good people. It was sort of unorganised. I was skipper most of the time, and I'd been brought up in soccer in the Netherlands and I had the discipline to get people sort of organised.''

In July 1954, Westerveld was selected to play for New Zealand on a tour of Australia, in part due to selector W. P. Smith being from Dunedin.

New Zealand hadn't experienced much international football since World War 2, and so expectations were not high for the tour.

Westerveld played in nine matches, including the three internationals against Australia.

Naturally, he best remembers the first of those, when New Zealand beat Australia 2-1 on August 14, in front of thousands of people at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

''There were fairly good crowds right through, because New Zealanders were very well liked - and obviously I considered myself one of them,'' Westerveld said.

''Technically, we weren't that brilliant, but we were determined to do well when we wore the all black shirt, with the silver fern on it.''

The New Zealand team won four matches on the tour, drawing three, and losing four, including the second and third internationals.

• Westerveld attracted attention in Australia, and was lured across the Tasman by both football and employment.

He was offered a job with the Australian adidas franchise in Melbourne, which supplied a new house.

He played for Wilhelmina, a football club formed by Dutch immigrants in 1953.

His arrival in the mid-1950s coincided with the club's rapid climb through the Victorian leagues.

In 1958, the club was runner-up in the Victorian State League and won the Dockerty Cup, Westerveld winning an award for his play.

Wilhelmina convincingly won the league the following year.

It was during this period Westerveld faced Stanley Matthews - twice.

Acknowledged as one of the greatest English footballers of all time, Matthews toured Australia with his Blackpool side in May and June of 1958.

Although he was then 43, Matthews was still a formidable presence, and kept playing top-level football until he was 50.

Westerveld played for both Victoria and Australia against Blackpool.

In the international match in Sydney in which Westerveld played, Australia was beaten 5-2 by Blackpool in front of more than 24,000 people.

He remembers Matthews well.

''The story went that I played right half in the first half and Stanley Matthews played on the right wing. But in the second half they put me at left fullback.

''He would have been 43 in those days, but he was still a brilliant player. Blackpool had seven internationals in the side; they were an excellent team.''

In 1959, Wilhelmina won the Victorian State League, but Westerveld was given a permanent reminder of that year when he lost an arm in a car accident while working for adidas.

Although it was an enormous handicap, he learned to live with it, and even returned to football as player-coach for a second division side.

Away from football, Westerveld concentrated on building his own business, running sporting goods stores in New South Wales.

He married second wife Dawn in Australia in 1956, and said her death in 2013 was ''the saddest thing I've ever been through''.

Westerveld has been back to New Zealand several times, and he even befriended the late Prime Minister, David Lange, who was a relative of his wife.

''He came to Australia quite often and I met up with him and socially, we had a marvellous time.''


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