The whirlwind adventures of the NASL’s Dallas Tornado: Memories with footballer Jan Book
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.
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?