Ray Baartz is the greatest ‘what could have been’ in Australian football.
The Socceroos forward was in the prime of his career and would have led Australia into its inaugural World Cup appearance – before the unthinkable happened.
At 27, his football career was over and his life hung in the balance as he lay paralysed on the hallow SCG turf.
This didn’t stop the midfielder, who would go on to score Australia’s opening goal against Uruguay in a pre-World Cup friendly but was unable to move the following morning.
Teammate Peter Ollerton, who scored the game’s second goal, was right next to Baartz when Uruguary’s Luis Garisto hit him with the infamous ‘karate chop.’
“I was right next to him, a yard maybe two from it,” he said.
“We were defending a corner and they came up and as you do get a bit pushy but I can’t remember the guy’s name, he was wearing number two, hit him with his forearm right across the neck with huge force and he hit the deck.
“I thought he’d maybe swallowed his tongue.
“Never did I think it would have paralysed him and he was a top player too and a true gentleman but it ended his career.
“I was playing up front with him and he was fantastic to play with and he was always there for you if you ever needed support.
Ollerton’s goal in the second half was his first as a Socceroo to seal a famous win in front of a packed SCG against the reigning world champions.
“I do remember [my first goal] because I think a lot of people which is unlike any other,” Ollerton said.
“They had all gone up to pressure us because we were up 1-0.
“I glanced to the left of me and realised their goalkeeper was on the halfway line and had thought I could be on if someone clears a header…I may be able to collect this and go one on one with the goalkeeper.
“Well sometimes dreams come true and it basically happened I collected the ball turned around and found myself one-on-one with goalkeeper.
“I knocked it round his left side, ran around him on the right so he wouldn’t get to me. By the time I picked the ball up I was two thirds in their half, ran into the edge of the penalty box and side footed it in from 20 metres to into an empty net.
“Crowd went mental and we found ourselves beating Uruguay who three years previously had won the World Cup.”
Australia would go on to lose their opening two group matches against West and East Germany respectively, before securing their first point against Chile.
“I wasn’t included in the first game against East Germany but came on against West Germany,” he said.
“Coach said I want you to close down Beckenbauer…I got about ten yards from him and that’s about as close as I got to him.
“I had a few mixed feelings at the time but it was fantastic, you were treated like a king the atmosphere was fantastic it was something with lives with you forever. I never thought I’d play in a World Cup.”