The whirlwind adventures of the NASL’s Dallas Tornado: Memories with footballer Jan Book
After eight hours without food and drink, we approached the local population about getting some food. Since we had no money, we were lucky to trade some soccer balls and jerseys, for what we believed to be a chicken, or some other type of bird, with feathers still attached. We also traded for some Fanta orange drinks. We were somewhat satisfied, but still concerned. After spending a sleepless night and another full day in the hut, help finally arrived with new Visas, late the second night. Boarding a small bus without seats, we took off deep into the Bengali jungle, where the famous Bengali tigers ruled, towards the India border.
We arrived 20 minutes before midnight, at a border station, which was closed for the night. Since our Visas would expire at midnight, we were desperate to get across. After bribing a couple of soldiers they cut a hole in the fence away from the border crossing station. We quietly crawled through the fence in total darkness, on our knees, with our luggage, praying that we would not get shot, or attacked by the tigers. Just wondering…what would Maradona have done at that time?
Safely back on the Indian side, we arrived at our Hotel at 6AM, exhausted, but safe. Played a game against India’s national team, the same day at 1PM, in 100 degrees F. and tied 1-1.
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.