Theseus John Marmaras MBE
Theseus (Theo) Marmaras was born on the island of Lemnos in Greece on 10 July 1910. In 1923 he followed his elder brother Arthur to Australia where he arrived with no English and no money. He worked as a dishwasher and in odd jobs and then began selling oysters travelling by bicycle and tram to deliver to his customers. Gradually he built up a flourishing business, though his daughter Olga remembers that she and her mother had to put ice on his bleeding hands when he came home from work. He opened the Melbourne Oyster Bar, importing rock oysters from Sydney and distributing them all over the country by air. He became an Australian citizen in March 1940 but he had already begun to contribute to Australian society which he believed had given him such opportunities.
He did not play football but in the post-war years when Greek migration expanded rapidly he became involved with the Hellenic club and was instrumental in the amalgamations with Yarra Park in 1959 and South Melbourne United in 1960 which resulted in the formation of South Melbourne Hellas. The new club played its first season in 1960 and it went from strength to strength in Australian football. He was president of the club for many years. Almost immediately Theo Marmaras was caught up in the great split in the game which began in New South Wales and spread to the rest of the country. When the Australian Soccer Federation was founded in November 1961, Marmaras was elected chairman of the new body, but in a typical show of personal modesty, he deferred to Henry Seamonds of New South Wales who had been expected to take the post. He took on the vice-chairmanship and acted as president when Seamonds died unexpectedly in 1963. He then stepped aside for Sir William Walkley to take over.
Theo Marmaras became the first chairman of the Victorian Soccer Federation helping to smooth the transition to the new body and playing a major part, along with Michael Weinstein, in the negotiations which led to Australia rejoining FIFA in July 1963. He also helped overcome a conflict in the Croatian ranks in 1962 enabling the emergence of a single club to take part in the State League and thereby contributing to one of the great rivalries in Victorian football history. He helped purchase Soccer House in St Kilda and went to Russia to arrange the tour by Torpedo Moscow in 1965. Theo Marmaras remained chairman of the Victorian Soccer Federation until he succeeded Harry Dockerty as president in 1967. He stood aside for Sir David Hill-Wood and Michael Parker in 1971 to 1973 but then resumed the presidency from 1974 to 1978. He was a tireless worker for the game at state and national level.
Theo Marmaras did much to make it easier for Greek migrants to find their way in Australian society urging them to become contributors to their new country. He led the way with a wide range of charitable and community activities including being an active life governor of the Royal Children’s Hospital and several other Melbourne hospitals and the St John’s Ambulance Association. He was awarded the Gold Medal of Mount Athos by the Greek Orthodox Church and was appointed honorary Trade Commissioner for Victoria. He received an MBE in 1972. He was a member of the inaugural Hall of Honour intake of the Football Australia Hall of Fame. The Theo Marmaras Medal is awarded to the South Melbourne Best and Fairest male player each season.
Theo Marmaras died in 1984 after a lifetime of service to football and the wider Australian and Greek societies.