After West Germany is brought into NATO, the Soviet Union forms an Eastern Bloc with seven neighboring nations. Domestically, Rosa Parks refuses to sit in the back of a Montgomery bus, and Martin Luther King leads a black boycott of that transit system. In Washington state, test pilot Tex Johnston performs a rollover maneuver of a prototype 707 during the Seafair hydroplane races and the Kalakala begins ferrying between Port Angeles and Victoria, B.C. Syracuse and Fort Wayne contest the NBA Finals while the Los Angeles Danes become the first West Coast club to reach soccer’s U.S. Challenge Cup final.
With the Cold War as a backdrop, the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland served as a spectacle, not only of unbridled attacking play (5.38 goals per game) but also a few high-stakes East-West matchups, the most prominent of which was the Miracle of Bern, the final between all-powerful Hungary and West Germany. The Germans, 8-3 first-round losers to the Magnificent Magyrs, went down 2-nil in the first eight minutes only to rally and conquer, 3-2.
Washington’s follow-up season to that World Cup is contested by six clubs with an increasingly multi-national makeup. In January 1955, Alfred Apsler of The Seattle Times described to the masses the distinct Sunday afternoon scene at Seattle’s Lower Woodland Park:
“Small knots of spectators huddle around the chalked outlines of a playfield…the footballers in their long-sleeved blouses, the short pants that leave the knees bare and woolen stocking pass, kick and dribble enthusiastically…Listening to the players chatter about next Sunday’s engagements, one notices the strong representation of foreign accents. The Scottish brogue stands out clearly, but Scandinavian, German, Slavic and Southern European inflections also blend into the conversation.”
The first division this season consists teams with clear ethnic heritage. The champion Buchan Bakers are sponsored by a Scot and represented by a largely British cast, as do Scotty’s Fish & Chips. The Scandinavians tend to congregate on rosters of the formidable Vikings and Scandia, a new entry. Also relatively new to the circuit are the Greek-Americans. The sixth side, Harvey’s United Restaurants, is an outgrowth of Catholic Youth Organization all-stars in other words, local youth.
Refugees from Eastern Europe are beginning to arrive in Seattle, along with international students attending college. Many, writes Apsler, “are homesick for the sport with which they grew up. So, it appears soccer is supported mainly by those who lived in foreign countries or under the strong impact of foreign traditions.”
Barney Kempton, the junior soccer commissioner for the Puget Sound area, estimates 75 percent who participate or watch local matches are immigrants or sons thereof. Kempton’s youth leagues are swelling, and a club of young adults such as Harvey’s will share the pitch with those old enough to be their father. Austin Gunderson of the Vikings is a 47-year-old grandfather.
This may not be the World Cup, but soccer in Washington is very much a world game.