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NASL’s Dallas Tornado: Memories with footballer Jan Book

The Tornado lineup with their Indian opponents

WST: All of the events mentioned thus far happened within the space of two to three months which is extraordinary all things considered. At the time did the Tornado players realize how unique this tour was already?

JB: The tour lasted seven months. At the time, we did not realize how difficult and hard this trip actually was. For a long period of time, we would play three games a week. Sometimes in different countries, with only 16 players, two of those players being goalkeepers. However, we were young and loved playing soccer.

WST: Given the nature of the tour nothing was ever going to be straight forward. The Tornado had to delay its trip to Burma because of political riots in India, correct?

JB: When we arrived in Calcutta, rioting had broken out. A civil war had started, people were protesting for not getting enough food. The political coalition that ruled that area could not guarantee safe passage, to the airport for an American team. The team was locked up in a hotel for three days, before we sneaked out and went to the airport for our flight to Burma. We found many buildings, busses and cars on fire in the city.

WST: So in Burma things seemed a little smoother and you played to crowds of over 40,000. What was that like? Overall during the tour what were the crowd sizes like?

JB: The government of Burma was ruled by a military junta. Never before had an American sports team been able to visit and play in Burma. We did not know what to expect, however we were well received, the crowd appreciated the way we played and performed. We played two games in sold out stadiums, with 40,000 spectators for each game, against their strong national team.

Overall, the crowd sizes would vary from 5,000 up to 40,000 depending on country and population.

The Tornado tour Rangoon

WST: Your game in Singapore in December 1967 was, to put it mildly, tense. Would it be fair to say that the match was a battle with the odd bout of football?

JB: Beautiful Singapore turned out to be a nightmare for us. Greeted at the stadium with a hostile crowd, of Chinese communists who was screaming “Yankee Go Home “, even before the game started.

During the game we would hear chants of “Down with American Imperialists!”

It did not take long before the game got out of hand. The local referee lost total control of the game. One of their players picked up a corner flag and chased one of our players like a bayonet, sharp side out! Many of the players got into fistfights, the crowd going berserk. The referee was hiding and nowhere to be seen. The anti-American crowd started to throw bottles and small rocks. Many of us got hit in our heads, however no serious injuries.

We finally rushed to the dressing room, as the angry spectators started to invade the field. After holding out in the dressing room for several hours, we finally made it back to the Hotel under heavy police escort. Needless to say the following day’s game was cancelled.

WST: Was that match in Singapore the most hostile it ever got on the pitch?

JB: Yes, it was actually the worst. It could have turned out very bad. We were just lucky we did not get hurt bad. The crowd was totally out of control. We feared for our lives.

WST: The fact that an American team played in Vietnam during the Vietnam War in itself is quite an amazing thing to hear. What was the general experience like there? Was it true that a few of the players went sight-seeing?

JB: We all were a bit worried and concerned about visiting and playing whilst the war raged all around us. It was very clear we had entered a warzone. Soldiers were everywhere. Helicopters buzzing in the sky nonstop. We were escorted to a hotel in Saigon, by the Military Police in a bus with heavy steel plates and bullet proof windows. We were briefed at the American Embassy not to be in groups of more than four people, at the time. Discouraged to do any sightseeing trips, or go out at night by ourselves.

We played two games while in Saigon with heavy armed soldiers at the stadiums. We tied both matches against South Vietnam national youth team and their senior national team. We also took a 10-mile ride up the Saigon River in a fully armed patrol boat, to visit and kick the ball around with American soldiers in an ammunition depot camp.

We could hear bombs and grenades exploding in the not too far distance. We experienced first-hand how these young American heroes lived and fought. All of us had nothing but respect and high regards for these young men. We all considered us lucky that we left Vietnam unharmed. Just a few weeks after our visit to Saigon the Tet Offensive occurred. Again we escaped a life threatening event.

WST: After the Vietnam leg the tour seemed to return to a semblance of normality with games in Taiwan, Australia and Japan. After all the extraordinary experiences what was it like returning to just a run of the mill football tour?

JB: It was never a run of the mill football tour. Nothing was normal, but we loved every day. Every country we played in, wanted to beat us. It would be a disgrace for them to lose against an American soccer team. Long flights, late nights, early mornings, different foods and cultures, games every third day. Biased local referees, PR events, American embassy visits and sightseeing kept the hectic schedule going.

It was never time for rest, or relaxation. But…we truly enjoyed it to the fullest.

We were really living our dreams. Every day was a new adventure and a new experience.

The Dallas Tornado take to the pitch in Taiwan

WST: So the tour wrapped up in Honduras in March 1968 ending an adventure that began in August 1967. If you could sum up the tour in three words what would you choose?

JB: It’s very hard to do in three words only. Many of us had different answers; here are some examples of what the guys said:

“Let’s go again!”
“Unbelievable! Amazing! Brilliant!”
“A lifelong lesson”
“Band of Brothers”
“Living the dream”

WST: Throughout this whole tour how did Bob Kap handle everything? It must have been stressful. What did Lamar Hunt say to the Tornado upon the conclusion of this epic journey?

JB: Mr. Kap did an unbelievable job in guiding a group of young single guys, around the world all by himself without any major incidents, even though it must have been stressful at times for him. He did a fantastic job. The responsibility he must have felt, not only to win soccer games, but also to keep us safe.

At times, he was like a father: a strong disciplinarian, a teacher, a general manager, a doctor/ trainer. He was the BOSS!

Lamar Hunt who did not travel with us, but would meet up with us from time to time was extremely pleased with the way we had conducted ourselves. He had received several letters from the various embassies around the world, expressing their gratitude towards the impact of goodwill we had created in many countries.

He was very proud of us.

Even though Lamar (and all of us players) would have liked to win more games, he was still satisfied. His goals had been met. He had shown the world that soccer did indeed exist in the US. That an American team could be compatible and compete in soccer matches, all around the world. And…that guys from Texas were pretty “Good Ol’ Boys, after all.

The Amazing World Tour of the Dallas Tornado is available on Amazon.com in the United States.

The book can also be ordered in the UK, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. Contact dallastornadobillycrosbie@gmail.com for more details.

The Dallas Tornado (from left to right): ons Stoffels, Bobby Roach, Billy Crosbie, Odd Lindberg, John Stewart, Chris Bachofner, Jan Book, Mike Renshaw and Andy Faegri

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Rhonda

    July 21, 2017 at 4:42 am

    What an exemplary story of the walk through the amazing Dallas Tornados world tour. Great job Daddy (Jan Book), very entertaining and informative view of all you young men went through…the good, the bad and the terrifying experiences you endured. I understand why it changed your life.

  2. Leif Book

    July 20, 2017 at 1:51 am

    Love to read all about it.
    What a amazing trip!

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