SOCCEROOS legend Ray Richards recalls the sad day he was with his mate Johnny Warren when he died after a battle with cancer.
Warren, aged 61 died on November 6, 2004, at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
"I was with Johnny when he died," Richards said.
"I was talking with him and stroking his hand and then he died, it was terrible, it still upsets me when I talk about it."
Richards, now 67, runs The Sports Factory at Wetherill Park.
Along with soccer icon Warren, they were members of the first Australian team to qualify for a soccer World Cup. The year was 1974 and the World Cup was held in West Germany.
Now 32 teams qualify for the World Cup finals but 39 years ago Australia got through to the final 16, an extraordinary achievement against the super powers in the game.
Richards and Warren were pioneers along with coach Rale Rasic, taking Australian soccer to their Mount Everest.
Australia gained international respect at the 1974 World Cup. They lost 2-0 to East Germany in their opening game in Hamburg, 3-0 against West Germany in Hamburg and drew 0-0 with Chile in West Berlin.
"A Hamburg newspaper apologised to the team after we played in the World Cup, we gained their respect," Richards said.
Richards conceded he and Warren weren't the best of pals in their playing days.
Richards played and also coached with Marconi Stallions and Warren played with St George.
But in Australian teams they were brothers with a common goal of playing for their nation.
"After we finished playing we became really good friends," Richards said.
Richards and the other surviving 1974 World Cup Socceroos, plus coach Rale Rasic are headed to Hong Kong for a special dinner in November to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Australia qualifying for the 1974 World Cup.
Australia qualified after beating South Korea 1-0 in Hong Kong on November 13, 1973.
The Hong Kong Football Association are the organisers. Richards is sure the spirit of Johnny Warren will be with them.