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