the forwards darted like flashes: the history of soccer in utah
April 25, 2010
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Utah Soccer Begins To Revive: The 1960s

The 1960s saw a continual increase in the numbers of people in Utah playing soccer, as well as greater recognition of the sport in schools and on college campuses. One such notice came in 1963, when George Squires, a British soccer player playing for the University of Wyoming Cowboys, defeated the University of Utah football team almost single-handedly, kicking three field goals and an extra point. The University of Utah, perhaps inspired by this loss, formed a men’s soccer team that played in the Utah Soccer League, even though they were not a varsity or letter team. Weber State College and Brigham Young University also fielded teams in the 1960s. BYU men’s soccer had gotten its start in 1955, when two brothers, Carl and Harold Boden, came from Germany to attend the school. Learning that there was no soccer team, they placed an ad in the Daily Universe, the BYU student newspaper, and soon had enough players. They joined the Utah Soccer League the next year, and soon were playing teams around the state. In 1963, the sport was given official sanction by the college, but it was still not recognized by the NCAA. In 1974, a new coach, Shavji Dusara, came to BYU, and quickly made his mark on the team. Official NCAA sanction came in 1977, but eventually pressure created by Title IX caused the NCAA status to be shifted to the women’s team, and the men’s soccer team reverted to club status.

Hollandia leaves for the Netherlands, 1966. (Deseret Morning News photo)In the world of semi-professional soccer in Utah, however, the decade of the 1960s was dominated as it had never been before by one team, SC Alemannia. Formed in 1953 by Arthur Zander—after he and Herman Neumann had a falling out—along with Ed Weymann and several other members of AC Germania, Alemannia smoldered through the 1950s and then sprang to life as a soccer powerhouse in 1959, when the club began an incredible run of seven state championships, and even more amazing, nine straight Daynes Cup titles. No team had ever won so many state and Daynes Cup titles in the history of Utah soccer and the feat has not been equaled since. Alemannia also won two Intermountain regional championships, and represented Utah at a number of other regional tournaments. The secret of Alemannia’s success was twofold: first, the team recruited experienced German players to come to Utah and join the team. Second, the team also employed professional soccer trainers to help the team develop the skills that would take them to the top of the Utah soccer standings. George Sirstin, one former team member, recalled that the members of the team would get a call saying “be at Sunnyside Park at 9AM on Sunday.” When they showed up, there would be a trainer that none of them had ever met. The trainer—sometimes players from top teams such as Bayern-Munich, or other premier European teams, who were on the injured reserve list—would put them through paces for a few hours, and they would never see him again. In 1964 and again in 1968, the club was invited to tour Austria and Germany to play exhibition matches against European teams, and held their own. Like Herman Neumann, Arthur Zander was inducted into the Utah soccer hall of fame.

Alemannia was not the only Utah soccer team to travel abroad during these years, either. In 1966, Hollandia sent a team to the Netherlands to play exhibition matches against some of Hollands finest teams, and again, gave a good account of themselves. Then in 1974, Brigham Young University’s men’s soccer team, which won the Daynes Cup in 1970 and would take the honors again in 1976, was sent to Italy for a 22-day tour. BYU’s team was an international one, with players from Zambia, Germany, Mexico, Scotland, Peru, Brazil, and Uruguay, along with several players from the U.S. They played eight matches against junior professional clubs, and compiled a respectable record against such powerful teams.

During the 1960s, high school soccer was also thriving in Utah, Neumann and Zander’s efforts having finally born fruit. Salt Lake valley high schools such as Highland, East, West, South, and Olympis, as well as private high schools like Rowland Hall all fielded teams of varying quality. Bill Bosgraaf, the current president of the USA, came to this country as a teenager in 1960. He arrived as an experienced soccer player, having grown up with the game in his native Holland. He found that there was, despite his misgivings, soccer to be played in Utah. He lived near Fairmont Park, where one day he saw a man and his sons kicking a soccer ball. So he joined them, and learned about the local soccer scene. Bill quickly became a member of the Vikings B team, comprised of older players who were past their prime but still wanted to get out on the field. After a year of that, he joined the Hollandia B team for several years. In Utah high school soccer game, 1960sUtah high school soccer game, 1960sUtah high school soccer game, 1960sthe meantime, he attended South High School in Salt Lake City, where he found that there was a high school soccer league; Bosgraaf quickly became a star on the South High soccer team, and played teams from all over the valley, such as Skyline, Olympus, Highland, and East High schools. He also found out that most of the other teams did not really come to play soccer, though; they were football players, and their coaches made them join the soccer team as a form of spring training. Naturally, Bosgraaf and the other immigrant players ran rings around the football players, with the result that the other players would sometimes double and triple-team the experienced soccer players just to try to take them down. They were never successful, and Bosgraaf lettered in soccer all three years of high school17 and played on the all-state teams against teams from Colorado and California. He remembered that years later, a man came up to him and asked “Are you Bill Bosgraaf?” When he replied that he was, the man said he had played soccer for Skyline high school, and said “We used to hate you, because you were so much better; we’d spend the whole game just trying to get a piece of you!” They both laughed, and shook hands. And it wasn’t just the Salt Lake valley that had high school soccer; a successful high school soccer program that is still in existence was started in Bountiful by Hugh Wigham, who later became president of the Utah Soccer Association. Garlan Fitzgerald, a former member of the BYU soccer team, and like Wigham a member of the Utah Soccer Hall of Fame, started high school soccer programs in Provo and Orem in 1971 that are still going strong today.

The 1960s represent the transition from the old, ethnically-based teams to teams composed of people from all over the world. Before that, however, there were still a few immigrant teams that made their mark on Utah soccer. One such team was Hellas, a team composed of Greek immigrants. It was formed in 1967 by a local businessman and quickly began to make a name for itself. One of the stars was Constantine “Gus” Colessides, who was born in Cavalla, Greece, in 1948. He started out playing for a local team but his coach, who was also the Greek National Youth Team coach, felt he could make soccer his career, and young Gus was all for it. His father intervened, however, and Gus soon found himself on his way to the U.S. When he arrived in Salt Lake City in 1966, he entered Westminster College, working on a degree in math and physics. At Westminster, a small private college, he found a few others who played soccer. One day he was watching the football team practice, and noted that their kicker was terrible. He went over to the coach and told him that he could kick much better. After a few place kicks, the coach signed him up on the spot. All went well until one game where the front line missed their blocks and Gus found himself buried under about half a dozen big linemen from the opposing team; that was enough of American style football.

Hellas, 1967. Gus Colessides is second from right, front rowHe was still interested in playing soccer, however, and soon a group of Greeks who met in the local Hot Shoppe in Little America decided they should form a Greek team, to be called Hellas. Gus was a member of the Hellas team for several years. Hellas faced one of the same problems as any other team in those days: where to get equipment. The Greek sponsor of the team solved it the same way, by going to Arthur Zander, who sold them uniforms, cleats, balls, shin guards, and nets from his basement on 9th East. Zander, however, didn’t have any uniforms in the Greek national colors, blue and white, so they had to play in green shorts until some proper jerseys and shorts could be imported from Greece. When internal dissensions caused a rift in Hellas in 1972, a new Greek team, Apollo, was formed. Apollo lasted only a few years, and Gus joined a new team called Pan World SC. Pan World was not named for the diversity of its players, as might be expected. The team had members from Italy, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Greece, Holland, and Norway, as well as a number of Americans, but according to Bill Bosgraff, who was also a member of Pan World S.C., the name came from a bicycle shop whose owner donated $100 for equipment. The team would meet on Thursday evenings and make hundreds of shishkabobs, which they would then cook and sell at the game on the weekends to raise money. Pan World SC went on to win five Daynes Cup championships and six state championships in the 1970s and early 1980s. After moving to both Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Houston, Texas—and playing soccer in both places—Gus Collessides returned to Utah where he became the head of the state referee association.

By the end of the 1960s, things were changing in the small world of Utah soccer. Some of the old clubs were breaking up and disbanding and reforming into new clubs, with the old country and ethnic teams breaking into new groups that were not so strictly arranged along national lines. Meanwhile a new wave of immigrants—from Spanish speaking countries this time, where the passion for soccer was just as strong as it was in Europe—was about the change the face of Utah soccer forever and take it to heights never imagined by the players earlier in the century. One of the first was formed by British players who broke away from AC Germania and other clubs. SC United, the new club, won the Daynes Cup their first year in existence. In the next few years SC United won a further two Daynes Cups, as well as two state championships. The other new club was the Incas, comprised for the most part of immigrants from South America. One of its first members was Ricardo Castro, who was born in Lima, Peru. He started playing barefooted on the streets in Lima, with a ball made out of rags. After he came to the U.S. in 1960, he and other Latin American immigrants banded together and founded the Incas. Ricardo played for several more years with the Incas, helping them win state championships in 1967 and 1969, and also played for the University of Utah. The Incas also had a talented forward named Pando Baias who was the scourge of the other teams. The club disbanded after a few more years, and never won a Daynes Cup—although many of their players joined Pan World S.C.—but the Incas were the harbinger of a wave of Hispanic immigrants that would, from the 1970s to the present, represent the largest number of people playing in soccer in Utah.

AC Germania, 1970s (USHS photo)

Footnotes:
17-South High School was one of the few that awarded letters for playing soccer.
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