SBS today announced that multi-award-winning sports broadcaster, Craig Foster, will leave his permanent role at SBS as Chief Football Analyst at the end of July to pursue other challenges. His friend and colleague, Lucy Zelic, wrote this farewell letter.
I always knew the day would come, when you would be called to a higher purpose after outgrowing your original mission with us here at SBS but I don’t think I was ever prepared for it.
Your service to the organisation over the last 18 years has surpassed expectation and transcended the call of duty to the point where you have become an iconic mainstay on the Australian media landscape.
They say that everyone is replaceable in the television industry but you, my friend, are not. I have long maintained that you are the best analyst of any code in this country but your value in this world was always destined to extend well beyond a football pitch and the four walls of a studio.
Last year, the entire nation watched on in pure wonderment as you vigorously campaigned for the release of Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi and galvanised politicians, civilians, high-profile identities and FIFA officials.
I remember sitting in the SBS green room with you at 5am after we had just come off-air for the Premier League and listening to you articulate your plans for Hakeem’s release. It was then that I had no doubt in mind that this young man would come home to Australia because he had you in his corner.
This may have been the first time the world was introduced to the great lengths that Craig Foster will go to to help those in need but for those of us who know you, your commitment to what is right and just has always been at the forefront of your decision making both personally and professionally.
From taking in a homeless young man and mobilising the sporting community to deliver much-needed supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, to advocating for the release of refugees and undertaking Ramadan to break through religious prejudices - you are a humanitarian of the highest order and continue to serve as an inspiration to us all.
Throughout my seven years at SBS, you have been my colleague, mentor, brother and great friend from whom I have learned so much.
You taught me about the importance of player’s rights, to hold the custodians of our game accountable at every turn, to speak up in the face of injustice and to place immeasurable value on sharing the cultural and historical narratives in football with our audiences.
I know that I am a better host and person, because of you.
Throughout your illustrious media career, you have been apart of some of the sport’s defining moments and are thus, forever etched into history. From shouting “Johnny Warren, we’ve done it!” at the World Cup qualifier in 2005, to your emotional post-match description of the “team of heroes” who faced Croatia in Stuttgart in 2006 - you have always worn your heart on your sleeve, been unwavering with your honesty and respected the game with every fibre of your being.
You’ve raised the standard for the ways in which we talk about, and analyse the game and in doing so, provided unrivalled credibility and integrity to The World Game brand. For this, I and many footballer lovers in this country, are eternally grateful.
As an on-air team, we have covered countless matches, including the marathon effort in Russia and I can truly say that I have enjoyed every minute of every moment, even when adversity has struck.
When a section of viewers took issue with my pronunciation of foreigner’s names in 2018, without asking, you sprang to my defence and used it as an opportunity to articulate why we do what we do at SBS and reiterate the importance of multiculturalism.
It meant so much to me, my family and to anyone who has ever faced criticism for being proud of their heritage and who they are.
We’ve spent innumerable hours talking about the state of the game, bonded over our penchant for horror films, eaten enough hummus and sushi to make us ill and whenever I’ve been hard on myself, you were always there to pat me on the back and say “don’t worry about it.”
When our beloved colleague Les Murray sadly passed away in 2017, I wondered if anyone could befit the legacy that both he and Johnny had built but the justice you have served them and the values upon which SBS was founded, have been second to none.
Your journey over the last two decades has been underpinned by great success but I know that you’re just getting started - the world is yet to see the depths of what you’re truly capable of.
Thank you for your unapologetic passion, humility, intellect, empathy and for loving the game the way that you do - there will never, ever be another like you.
From here, you walk away having upheld the mission in ways that only you could do.
So kolega, as you embark on your next challenge, I hope that the path is lined with goodwill and extraordinary accomplishments but just know that there will always be a seat next to me, waiting for you.