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Recalling a Heroic Upset: the Last U.S.-U.K. World Cup Match

December 10, 2009

Even non-sporty Anglophiles caught the fever at the recent announcement that, for the first time since 1950, the United States will play Britain in the soccer World Cup, scheduled in South Africa next year, as part of Group C. Last time that happened, in Brazil, it didn’t work out so well for the Brits.

Those players are mostly gone, now, but NY Times sportswriter Jeré Longman tracked down one of the heroes of that stunning American upset. Eighty-two-year-old Pennsylvanian Walter Bahr no longer looks the part, but he scored for the U.S. in the 1948 Olympic games. Two years later, he had to repeatedly beg leave from his job in a junior high school to join the World Cup team headed for Brazil, Longman writes.

For $100 a week — double his teacher’s salary — he joined a team whose other players  included “a hearse driver, a dishwasher [and] a mail carrier.” The dishwasher, a not-yet-naturalized immigrant from Haiti, scored the lone goal.

The Americans were 500-1 long shots. ‘A band of no-hopers,’ The Belfast Telegraph called them… So shocking and unimaginable was the outcome, it is considered the equivalent of the Americans losing to the British in baseball. As the story goes, some of the world’s newspapers believed a telegraph operator had made a mistake. They thought the real score must have been 10-1 in favor of England.

A sort of Maginot Line of football? A band of brothers? We’ll see, next year.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 20, 2009 11:56 pm

    Next year!! I understand, my posts can be sporadic…depending on how prolific my painting goes1

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