Whitlam witnessed China’s effort to kick off an end to its isolation

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Many major soccer nations won’t play sport with either country – bringing politics into sport, to use a catchcry currently popular in Australia.

Chinese Premier Chou En-lai made one of his rare departures from work to watch from the official box in the centre of the stand in a bid to make an occasion out of it.

Gough Whitlam and the Labor Party delegation with China’s premier Zhou Enlai in Beijing in July 1971. John Stubbs

The Prime Minister of the Cambodian Government in exile [Norodom Sihanouk] was there with such a bank of Chinese military and political officials as to force Australian Labor leader Mr [Gough] Whitlam three rows back in the VIP box.

Starved of international competition, neither side produced a very high standard of play.

A top Australian city side would have had little trouble whipping either.

The Albanian side, in fact, was not a full international team. It represented only a soccer-playing district in tiny Albania but brought to…

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