Soccer: Great journey revisited – Book headed to 50th reunion

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, June 10, 2017
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Recounting a Great Adventure

RECOUNTING A GREAT ADVENTURE – Jan Book played with the Dallas Tornado of the NASL during their whirlwind trip around the globe in 1967. A book was recently published about the tour. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Fifty years ago, Jan Book boarded a plane from his native Sweden to Spain to join a newly formed American soccer team.

The 19-year-old could hardly envision that he was beginning one of the greatest sports journeys. Playing with Lamar Hunt’s Dallas Tornado, Book and his 15 teammates traversed the globe, playing 48 games between Aug. 24, 1967 and March 10, 1968.

“We played a game every third day. It was seven months around the world with only 16 players and three were goalkeepers,” Book recalled. “There’s people that would say, ‘I can’t believe you did this.'”

The Runaway Bay resident will board a jet next week to return to Spain before rejoining 10 of his Tornado teammates June 18 in Chester, England for a reunion to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the journey. It is the group’s second reunion. Their first reunion in 2014 prompted teammate Fons Stoffels of the Netherlands to write a book about the tour that is now available on Amazon.

The book documents Book getting hit by a bottle after a brouhaha in Singapore and visiting a military hospital in Vietnam with a teammate, along with many other tales on the road.

“We funded [the book] ourselves. It took a year to write and we had it printed in the Czech Republic,” Book stated. “It turned out good. It’s been received well.”

After a youth soccer game in Sweden, a spectator told a 19-year-old Jan Book to respond to a newspaper ad looking for talented young players for a professional league team that was starting in Dallas.

“I had a good game that day, and a fan of the club said there was ad in the paper about playing in America,” Book recalled. “I replied with my resume and a few weeks later had a tryout. I did well and signed right then and there.”

Two months later he flew to Spain for a training camp before embarking on the journey to 26 countries including Morocco, Iran, Japan, Fiji and even Vietnam, in the middle of a war, in just seven months. The Tornado tour ended in March 1968 with games in Costa Rica and Honduras before the team’s first official game in the North American Soccer League.

The team went 10-26-9 over the first 45 games of the tour that are chronicled in the book.

“We didn’t have a good record. But usually at halftime we were up 1-0,” Book said. “Looking back, we realized that everywhere we played there were local referees. We never played a 45-minute second half. We were also playing a game every third day in a new country.”

After their world tour, the team was completely worn out. The results in the league showed that. It managed only two wins in 32 matches with four ties.

Book played one season with the Tornado and returned to Sweden to complete his military commitment. He mostly played soccer in the military.

Book returned to Texas and became a soccer instructor in Irving. He helped grow the city’s participation in the sport from 100 to more than 1,000 players.

He worked a couple of years with Irving before going out on his own to start Jan’s Soccer Club.

He eventually went to work in the textile industry and worked around the country before settling back in North Texas at Runaway Bay, where he gave a soccer clinic in 1968.

Book had a heart bypass in 2002 and rehabbed vigorously at Wise Health System to play in an alumni game before the reunion in 2014. He scored a goal in the game.

He’s looking forward to this next reunion with his teammates.

“When we were on tour, we had only one coach and the 16 of us,” Book said. “We were a band of brothers. We had to look out for each other.

“At the last reunion, most of us hadn’t seen each other in 46 years. We just picked up where we left off. It’s a feeling you can’t describe.”

He can’t fathom that it all began 50 years ago.

“It seems like 10 years ago. The time has passed unbelievably fast,” Book said.

The team will be featured in a section in the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Frisco.

The NASL will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2018.

“They feel that’s when soccer really started in America,” said Book.

He’s proud to see how far the game has come in the states since then.

“It gives us such great pleasure to see how far soccer has come in such a relatively short time,” Book said. “There’s more kids playing soccer than any other sport.”

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