- Associated Press - Sunday, July 30, 2017

SYDNEY (AP) - Les Murray, long considered Australia’s pre-eminent soccer commentator, has died after a battle with illness. He was 71.

The SBS network, where Murray started working when it launched in 1980, confirmed Monday that the long-time broadcaster had passed away. It did not give further details.

Les will be remembered not just for his 35-year contribution to football in Australia, but for being a much-loved colleague, mentor and friend who has left a unique legacy,” SBS said in a statement. “To say he will be sorely missed is an understatement.”

Generations of Australians regarded Murray as the country’s “Mr. Football,” SBS said.

“His role went far beyond being a football commentator,” the SBS statement said. “The growth, popularity and success of football in Australia today is absolutely a reflection of his passion and advocacy for the game that he loved. “

Murray, who was born in Hungary in 1945 and moved to Australia in 1957, was survived by his partner, Maria, and his daughters Tania and Natalie.

“No one better embodied what SBS represents than Les Murray. From humble refugee origins, he became one Australia’s most recognized and loved sporting identities,” SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid said. “Not just a football icon, but a great Australian story and an inspiration to many. To say that his contribution to SBS and to football was enormous doesn’t do it justice.”

Murray, who was a former member of an independent ethics committee established by FIFA, was inducted into the Football Federation Australia Hall of Fame in 2003.

“This is a very sad day for football. Few people become synonymous with their sport . but Les was one of those few,” FFA Chairman Steven Lowy said. “He made an immense contribution to football in Australia through his professional work but above all through his passion … he literally brought the game to millions and connected us to the biggest sport in the world.

“I’ve been seeing his face and hearing his voice since I was a teenager and I am sure I speak for many when I say that football is not going to be quite the same without him around.”

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