First Reunion of the Most Improbable Sports Tour in U.S. History

Before Dallas ever played in in its American league, the Tornadoes went on a half-year whirlwind trip abroad.
Before Dallas ever played in in its American league, the Tornadoes went on a half-year whirlwind trip abroad.

Take the richest sports magnate outside of Jerry Jones Arkansas has ever produced. Add the “most brilliant con man” in American sports history. Then throw in some impressionable young soccer players from Europe.

What you have is a recipe for the strangest, most ambitious soccer tour the world has likely ever seen.

Dallas Tornadoes’ six-month world soccer tour of 1967-68 “consumed 25,000 miles, 19 countries, five continents, 45 games and a serious bite from a family fortune,” the Dallas Morning News’ Kevin Sherrington wrote. That fortune belonged to El Dorado native Lamar Hunt, former owner of the Kansas City Chief and Chicago Bulls and major investor in American professional soccer leagues. 

Hunt and a fast-talking, dubiously credentialed Serbian immigrant from Canada named Bob Kap teamed up to gather 16 young men in Spain, slap “Dallas” on their shirts and send them around the world into some of the most politically charged environments of the late 1960s – Vietnam (including Saigon just before the Tet Offensive erupted), Afghanistan*, India, Iran – anywhere there were tens of thousands of natives willing to cram into a stadium and watch. The overarching goal was to show America could hold its own in soccer. On a smaller scale, Hunt knew this tour featuring mostly subpar soccer players could generate good will toward the city of Dallas even if it lost most of its games (which it did). The city was still trying to emerge from the specter of the Kennedy assassination less than five years before.

The fact that the majority of the young men who made up the Dallas Tornadoes had never actually been to Dallas was beside the point.

Here’s more about their trip, provided by the FC Dallas communications department:

The team began with training camp in Spain in August. After stops in Nice, Istanbul and Athens, the team took a side trip to check out the Acropolis and missed its flight from Athens to Cyprus. The Acropolis trip saved their lives** as their original flight was blown up in mid-air by a bomb, killing 63 people. The target was Cypriot leader General George Grivas, who coincidentally also missed the original flight and was on the second plane with the Tornado. On the tour, the Tornado played in Spain, Morocco, Turkey, Cyprus, Iran, Pakistan, India, Ceylon, Burma, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, Costa Rica and Honduras. The highest recorded crowd on their travels was 47,000. They played 48 games from Aug. 24, 1967 to March 10, 1968. They returned to Dallas to open their inaugural NASL season on March 30, 1968 against the Houston Stars at Turnpike Stadium in Arlington. 

Tonight, 10 of the 16 players will meet at FC Dallas’ Toyota Stadium in Frisco for the first reunion of this team. Many of the players have not seen each other since 1968, said Bobby Moffat, a  Dallas Tornado in the 1970s who is writing a book on the defunct franchise. You’ll likely hear more about their adventures in the near future. The BBC will cover the reunion and a British production company is making a documentary about the trip, said Jan Book, a former Dallas player who went on that whirlwind tour so long ago.



 * Afghanistan was scheduled as a destination but not followed through with, Sherrington points out. “According to Michael MacCambridge’s Lamar Hunt: A Life in Sports, Waters wired his boss from Karachi to say Afghanistan was “a mistake.”



**Sherrington says this claim may have a touch of apocrypha mixed in with hit. “Unfortunately for the purposes of this story, records indicate flight 284 left Athens at 4:30 a.m. on the 12th. Unless the boys were touring the Acropolis after hours, they were fast asleep when the de Havilland Comet settled at the bottom of the Mediterranean.”



QB Fred Marshall Almost Quit On Frank Broyles, Imperiling Arkansas’ 1964 National Championship


Arkansas’ starting quarterback on its 1964 national title team nearly skipped out on that entire season. In 1963, Fred Marshall was a fourth-year junior who had bided his time and was ready to take the reins as Hogs’ full-time quarterback. When he didn’t, he visited head coach Frank Broyles in his office with two games left in the season and told him he’d had enough. “I told him I wasn’t coming back the following year because I thought he’d done me wrong. I was saying, in essence, ‘Coach, you messed up and I’m pissed about it.'”

Broyles didn’t act defensive, Marshall recalled. Broyles heard Marshall out. And he tried to explain to him his reasoning.

The winter before, quarterback Billy Gray had starred in the Sugar Bowl and Arkansas coaches assumed he would be the starting quarterback the following fall. That season great things were expected of the Hogs, which had finished in the AP Top 10 for four consecutive years and entered the fall as conference favorites. Problem was, Gray didn’t want to play quarterback. He wanted to stick to cornerback on defense (this was the era of two-way players). So Marshall goes in, but it didn’t help his cause that  in the 1963 conference opener he threw three passes that should have been intercepted.

So the baton was passed around.  “I start the season as the starter and next thing I know, I’m not starting any longer,” Marshall said in August, 2o13 interview. “Billy Gray’s starting and Billy Gray takes his turn and lo and behold he joins me over on the bench. And now we got Jon Brittenum starting.” It went on like this through the first eight games of the season as Arkansas fell to a 4-4 record. Gray and Brittenum weren’t as explosive in terms of passing as anticipated. Marshall, more of a running, ball-control type of quarterback, recalled being told by Broyles that “we can’t take the ball and just grind it down the field. We’ve got to have somebody who can make the big plays.” That wasn’t happening as much as expected, though, and Marshall heard about it: “I had people all over the state telling me they didn’t understand why I wasn’t playing. To a lot of people it was clear that I should have been playing.”

With Gray and Brittenum both returning the next year, and Marshall stuck as the third stringer, he decided he’d had enough. “I wasn’t gonna ride the bench for another year,” Marshall said. He was only three or six hours away from graduating at that point and moving on with his life. He had a wife and eight-month-old son to support. “I was going to get into the workforce and do my thing. [Pro] football was not part of my future.”

He vented to Broyles after a 7-0 road loss to Rice, but added that he didn’t intend to stop playing hard for the team for the remainder of the season. During the next game, at SMU, Broyles put in Marshall early but the team still lost 14-7. That didn’t dissuade Broyles. He approached Marshall in the locker room. “If you come back next year, you’ll be my starting quarterback,” Marshall recalled being told. Broyles admitted he’d made a mistake and was going to start him the next game against Texas Tech.  “I look back and wish we’d stuck with Fred in ’63,” Broyles recalled in his autobiography “Hog Wild.” “Instead of 5-5, we might have won eight or nine games.”

Marshall started the season finale at home against Texas Tech [ in the only SWC game played the day after Kennedy was assassinated] and helped the Hogs get out to a 20-0 start. Gray jumped in for Marshall in the second period after a running play in which he hit a defender head on. “As we call it in football language, he got his ‘bell rung,'” Arkansas Gazette writer Orville Henry wrote after the game. “I got a little dazed and nauseated, but I was all right by the middle of the second half,” Marshall told the Gazette.

The Hogs held on for a 27-20 win – the first of what would be 22 straight wins. Marshall would go on to be the starting quarterback the following season in which the Hogs went undefeated and clinched the national title with a 10-7 win over Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl. Marshall engineered the crucial game-winning drive in the fourth quarter and got co-MVP honors along with linebacker Ronnie Caveness. The entire season, under the steady leadership of Marshall and an elite defense, Arkansas gave up only six turnovers.

Would Arkansas have  won its lone national title had Marshall quit the previous winter? We’ll never know for sure, but it’s a credit to Broyles’ ability to listen and admit mistakes that Arkansas fans never had to find out.