Rydell: Chattanooga's place in soccer history

Rydell: Chattanooga's place in soccer history

March 11th, 2018 by Jennifer Rydell in Opinion Columns

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The year 1912 places Chattanooga in the soccer history books as the site of the first inter-city match in the south.

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The Chattanooga eleven played the Atlanta Crackers on Feb. 22 at 3 p.m. on the grass at Chamberlain Field. Advance ticket sales were brisk, and reduced prices of 15 cents for children helped produce a large crowd. The "cool and raw" weather did not dampen the enthusiasm of the sports fans for what was for many an introduction to the "national game of Great Britain."

A Chattanooga Times article on the day of the event helped give people a basic understanding of how the game was played. It touted soccer football "as an amateur sport it is unexcelled. Business man, school boy, workingman alike can play it. It requires the extreme of physical development to play it in its highest form, but its nature is such that the man of smallest stature and least strength can develop into a star with the proper amount of attention and practice."

Local mechanical draftsman, Archibald S. McLundie, was instrumental in arranging for the match with Atlanta. He learned the game in his native Scotland, and after arriving in the U.S. played on teams in Brooklyn, N.Y., St. Louis, and Chicago.

He did his best to round up a team of veterans to participate in the Chattanooga match. Players for Chattanooga included: A.S. McLundie (Capt.), C. Boyce, H. Lavery, W.D. Campbell, C. Thiele, T. Johnston, S. Hall, B. Barclay, S.A. Glendenning, H. Greer, F. Howard and H.J. Sims (linesman).

The Times article compared the two teams: "The Atlanta team had been practicing for weeks for the fray. The Crackers had developed teamwork, speed and endurance, and were in much better training, in fact, than the more experienced members of the Chattanooga eleven, who had just been 'picked up' by Coach McLundie, a sort of 'all star' organization."

The Atlanta team, "prepared to annex the scalps of the Chattanoogans," arrived at noon the day of the match by train with a large contingent of supporters. The Atlanta Crackers included: W Kelly (Capt.), A. Harvey, L. Desplande, W. Jackson, A. McWatt, W. Jones, J. Harland, P Harland, R. Jones, A. Stranhan, Wilson and J. Hall (linesman).

The referee for the match was Philip McGuire. At the end of the match the Atlanta Crackers emerged victorious with a score of 4-0.

A Chattanooga Times account on the next day characterized the entirety of the game: the "local eleven started off with a big rush, but after many ineffectual efforts to get by the goal defense of the Crackers in the first half of the opening stanza, they wilted away and thenceforth were easy . The local team showed just what might have been presaged before hand — an absolute lack of teamwork. The players showed they knew the game as it ought to be played, but they didn't have any idea where to kick the ball."

"The Atlantans waged war on Referee Maguire between halves, showing that 'umpire baiting' is not confined to baseball. Some of them averred that the referee didn't know a blooming thing about the rules of the game. Maguire stated that he knew how it was played in Scotland, at which an Atlantan parried that he had just come from New York and knew they played it in the Capital City. The question arose over a discussion of 'on side' and 'off side' plays mainly, though there were some other points on which they disagreed with the official. In fact, they intimated that he was blind as a bat in regard to any fouls committed by the home team and that he strained at gnats to punish the visitors. The American isn't qualified to judge of the correctness of the kick or the knowledge of the umpire. It's all Kentish or Yorkshire to the uninitiated."

"The crowd, few knowing what was going on, took this good-naturedly, and what they didn't understand they laughed about. One rude, would-be joker, arose about 15 minutes after the game had started and inquired when they would quit practicing and play ball."

"On the whole, the audience, while they indulged in many witticisms and would-be witticisms at some of the freak-looking stuff from their point to view, which was pulled off, enjoyed the game and realized its great possibilities."

Jennifer Rydell is a librarian at the Chattanooga Public Library and can be reached at 423-643-7725. For more, visit Chattahistoricalassoc.org.

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