When a group of budding footballers from Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Adelaide, with no facilities to draw on, put together the first Adelaide Lutheran football side, they could scarcely have imagined what the club would become.
Yet here it stands, fifty years later. Since 1969, over 1700 footballers have donned their red, white and blue guernsey, while many more have dedicated hours of volunteer service not just to keep Adelaide Lutheran Sports Club (ALSC) going, but set it apart.
ALSC hosted a weekend-long celebration of their half-century of football, beginning with a triple header of home games at Bulldog Park, followed by a formal anniversary dinner and book launch.
Among the 200 guests were founding members, premiership players, and Lutheran ministers who played for the club.
The club’s Lutheran connection was acknowledged on the Sunday with a club service, led by Pastor Peter Miller (a premiership captain), followed by a family day and home game for their women’s team.
Wayne Gladigau – author of commemorative book ‘A Bulldog for Me’ – experienced the club’s camaraderie firsthand when he first moved to the city. After feeling unwelcome at his university football team’s training, a friend pointed him in Adelaide Lutheran’s direction.
Gladigau went on to play in their first premiership – one of a remarkable eighteen won by the Bulldogs. Their success is even more impressive considering – or perhaps, because – the club is run entirely by volunteers.
“We are a very social club and everyone that gets involved is valued, and that’s how we are able to get so much volunteer help,” Gladigau says. “It’s a second home for a lot of people.”
One such person was a man nicknamed ‘Pale Face,’ an opposition “rough nut,” who was reported in almost every game ALSC played against him, until one night when he showed up at an Adelaide Lutheran team meeting.
“He said he knew what we were like, and he wanted to play for a decent club.”
Pale Face became a premiership player with the club, and “openly talked about how Adelaide Lutheran basically changed his life.”
Gladigau believes ALSC’s “good Christian values – community minded, everyone respecting each other, inclusiveness,” have enabled the club to act as a mission field.
“I think many have maintained and led a good life as a result of their time at the footy club.”
With the milestone celebrated, ALSC is turning its attention to the future.
Having survived so long on meek resources, their priority is securing funding to update their facilities and meet the changing demands of the club (such as their recent expansion into women’s football) and its sub-tenants, and match the strength of their resources to the might of their community spirit.
READ MORE STORIES ABOUT pastors