There are football tours, there are serious football tours and then there was the epic journey undertaken by the Dallas Tornado. Led by the charismatic Bob Kap the team traversed the globe in a near eight month tour from 1967 to 1968 playing in 26 different countries including: Singapore, Cyprus, Morocco, Bangladesh (known back then as East Pakistan) and Fiji to name but a few places.
This was no run of the mill tour as well, the Dallas Tornado had to contend with riots, a border dash across the East Pakistan-Indian border, the Vietnam War and even a brush with terrorism.
Bill Crosbie, who joined the Dallas Tornado after answering an ad in the Liverpool Echo, described the journey as “an amazing trip that will never be repeated again.”
‘Amazing’ doesn’t quite begin to describe the Dallas Tornado World Tour but Crosbie is probably correct in saying that an undertaking of this kind will never happen again.
The journey effectively began when the co-owner of the Dallas Tornado, Lamar Hunt, recruited the Serbian born Božidar Kapušto to build and then coach the team. Kapušto had reportedly studied at Hungarian national football academy with Ferenc Puskas but had to escape Hungary in the uprising of 1956. He moved to Canada, shortened his name to Bob Kap and worked as a reporter for a sports magazine before being given the opportunity to coach the Tornado.
He quickly assembled a squad that contained seven Englishmen, four Norwegians, two Swedes, two Dutchmen and one American. The average age of the squad was 21.
The Dallas Tornado kicked off their tour even before their squad was fully assembled. Bill Crosbie and fellow Liverpudlian Bobby Roach joined the Tornado five games into the tour.
Whilst representing the Tornado the group was instructed to wear the club suit and Stetson hats, the idea being that the trip would be as much a goodwill tour as was a footballing one.
On the 22nd of August 1967, the Dallas Tornado lost 4-0 in the inaugural match of their tour against Cordoba CF in Spain. They then went on to beat RSD Alcala, Coria CF, Moroccan side UDT in Tangier before losing to Real Oviedo back in Spain.
The Tornado then went on to Istanbul where they drew with Fenerbahçe 2-2 in front of a crowd of 25,000. At one point the Tornado led 2-0.
So far so normal but the Dallas Tornado’s world tour would have been tragically cut short had the team decided to stick to their flight schedule.
On the 12th of October 1967, the Dallas Tornado was due to fly to Nicosia from Athens however the team decided to do some sightseeing in the Greek capital. Bill Crosbie recounted that the players spent too much time at the Acropolis and missed their plane, Cyprus Airways Flight 284, by half an hour. Greek-Cypriot terrorists believed that Greek army general Georgios Grivas would be travelling on that flight and planted a bomb on board. The plane blew up in mid-air killing everyone on board.
The Tornado took a later flight to Nicosia, which also had on board the General who was the target of the bomb. Crosbie said the trip was “the longest two hours of my life!”
The Tornado lost their two games in Cyprus the second of which was played in 95ºF (35ºC).
From Cyprus it was onwards to Iran via Lebanon. A semblance of normality crept back to the tour as Dallas Tornado played a series of games against a number of Iranian sides which included a 1-1 draw against the Tehran Select XI. The Tehran side contained no less than five Iranian internationals.
There was still room for a colourful tale. The Tornado had recruited a winger by the name of Graham Stirland. He was described by Crosbie as “good going forward,” and “always getting back to help his fullback out.” Coach Kap though felt that Stirland was keeping to himself too much and not interacting enough with the rest of team. In the airport in Tehran Frank Randorf, Kap’s assistant coach, took Stirland to the men’s toilet for a chat. 10-minutes later Randorf returned alone and when the other players enquired about Stirland’s whereabouts they were told that he was sent back to England. The squad didn’t have an opportunity to say goodbye.
On the 27th October 1967, the Tornado went to Pakistan and faced the national team the following day. The Tornado won 2-0 in Karachi but a day later lost the rematch 4-2 in Lahore. They then travelled to East Pakistan (Bangladesh) playing matches in Chittagong and Dhaka before making their way across the border to India. To say that crossing didn’t go smoothly would be understating the trouble a touch.
November 3rd, on the way to the border the locals were spewing vitriol at the Tornado because they were travelling to India. As they got to and through passport control the atmosphere couldn’t have been more different as the team was met with welcome arms, well those who could cross the border at least.
The English contingent and Kap who was a naturalized Canadian had no trouble getting through as they were part of the British Commonwealth but for those who were carrying non-Commonwealth passports the issue of crossing the border was far more complicated.
The players left behind (the Scandinavians, Dutch and Jay Moore the solitary American) thought their visas would only take a few hours to issue. They ended up staying two days in a ramshackle, no star hotel.
They eventually got their visa and made it to the border at 10:30pm. Their visas needed to be validated by the Indian general at the border patrol by midnight otherwise they would not be let in. As their luck would have it the general was asleep and his subordinates did not want to wake him up. Eventually one of the guards led the stranded players down the fence and cut a hole for them to get through. Of course for the Tornado players like Fons Stoffels, Jan Book, Per Larson, Chris Bachofner, Jay Moore and the rest, the fun and games didn’t end there. Stranded in the Bengali jungle with their luggage in tow the group feared that they could be shot at or even attacked by tigers but on the 5th of November the remaining players of the Dallas Tornado somehow managed to make their way to the Great Eastern Hotel in Calcutta (Kolkata). Upon reaching the hotel they found their English counterparts playing billiards. There wasn’t any time for rest, relaxation or even a power nap as the Tornado was due to play a game that day against the Indian national team. In front of a crowd of 30,000 the Tornado drew 0-0.
They played a further six games in the space of 12 days losing two, drawing two and winning their final game against the Indian national team 4-1 before flying to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where they arrived on the 20th of November. The Tornado lost their two matches to the Ceylonese national team and were subsequently meant to fly off to Burma via Madras (Chennai) to Calcutta. The nature of the tour dictated that things wouldn’t go smoothly and true to form the Dallas Tornado encountered some trouble, as there were political riots in Calcutta on the day they were meant to leave, November 25th. They were confined to a hotel for two days before sneaking out of India on the 28th of November.
As soon as they arrived in Burma they played two games in the space of 48-hours. They lost to the Burmese Under-21 side and then the full national team. Both games saw crowds of over 40,000 people.
The 3rd of December 1967 saw the Tornado play in Singapore and it’s safe to say that the hosts were less than receptive. Recounting the build-up to the game Crosbie recalled the players being subject to abuse from ‘Chinese militants’ who chanted, “Go home Yanks,” and “Yankee Imperialists”. It escaped the hostile home support’s notice that only one member of the Dallas Tornado, Jay Moore, was in fact an American. The match itself could be summed up as a battle with the occasional bouts of football. The Singapore national team were “out for blood” according to a member of the Tornado. The members of the Tornado were being kicked and apparently the referee wasn’t giving them any protection. Naturally, some of the players fought back. Per Larsen had fouled a member of the Singaporean team and that set the crowd off. They threw stones at the Tornado, Jan Book was slightly injured in the fracas, whilst a player from the Singaporean side allegedly took out the corner flag ready to attack the Tornado players.
For the record the Dallas Tornado lost 4-2 and unsurprisingly a second match in the Lion City was cancelled.
The Tornado took off to Indonesia where they were beaten twice before heading off on the 12th of December to Saigon. With the Vietnam War at a critical juncture the Dallas Tornado played two games, one against the national Under-23 side and the other against Club Saigon.
For a group of young men the experience of being in a war torn Vietnam must have been frightening. From their hotel room they could hear battles; all around them were the sounds of helicopters, travelled on gunboats, saw ammo dumps. To take that all in must have been overwhelming.
Amazingly, the team was allowed to sightsee in Saigon though they always maintained that they received extremely good protection complete with a police escort. That didn’t stop a couple of the Tornado players inadvertently dicing with danger. Crosbie and Eddie Hall were stood on the corner of a street in Saigon when they were spotted by the Military Police and promptly admonished. When they asked why it was dangerous the duo were informed that there were locals ‘patrolling’ the streets on scooters armed with hand grenades looking for ‘Americans’ to target. Needless to say Crosbie and Hall didn’t venture long on the streets afterwards.
For Jay Moore, the only American on the tour, the trip to Vietnam hit close to home as he knew people whom he ‘played ball with’ who never returned from the war.
The other players didn’t feel comfortable playing in their two games in Vietnam. American Military Police were facing the crowd ready to act if anything got out of hand. On the 14th of December 1967 the Dallas Tornado drew their first game 1-1 against the Vietnamese Under-23 side and on the 16th they drew 2-2 against Club Saigon. A month later the Tet offensive began.
The Dallas Tornado flew to Taiwan on the 18th of December as the tour once again started to return to a semblance of normality. They beat the national side 3-2 in Taipei in front of a crowd of 43,000.
Coming to Christmas the Tornado ventured to Japan. Over in the Land of the Rising Sun their most challenging opponent, apart from the national team whom they lost to twice, was the hotel mini bar. To a number of the Tornado the mini bar was something they had never come across before. They helped themselves to he contents only to discover that they were being charged for everything they consumed.
On the last night of their stay some craftier members of the group concocted a plan to drink from the mini bar without having to pay for anything. They carefully opened the bottles of beer, drank everything and then urinated back into the bottles and smacked the caps back on. Looking back they admitted it wasn’t their finest hour with one player revealing that ever since then he vigorously checks for any signs of bottle tampering whenever he takes a beer from hotel mini bars.
Come 1968 the team spent the New Year in the Philippines before making an 18-hour journey to Australia. For the rest of January and the beginning of February the Dallas Tornado faced teams from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tahiti.
They finally wrapped up the tour in March 1968 playing games in Costa Rica and Honduras. By the time it all ended the players were mentally and physically exhausted. Their results in the 1968 NASL season said as much as they only won two games drew four and lost the other 26.
Kap was dismissed early into the season but his true legacy like that of his team was to take on and survive the footballing trip of a lifetime.
Kap passed away in March of 2010.
“God, did we have a great life,” said Jay Moore. “As far as being a person that tour was worth a college education.”
If given the opportunity this pioneering group of footballers would do it all again. Then again could a journey like that ever be recreated? The simple answer is ‘no’ and perhaps that is the reason why the 1967/68 Dallas Tornado World Tour will be remembered in the annals of football as one of the most extraordinary adventures ever the game has ever witnessed.
Click here to listen to a podcast from the BBC featuring a reunion of the Dallas Tornados.
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