By: Rich Tortorelli, Oklahoma City Assistant Athletic Director for Communications
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Brian Harvey has been threatened by a soccer player with a corner flag from the field they were playing on.
This incident happened while Harvey was a member of the Dallas Tornado preparing for its inaugural season in the North American Soccer League in 1968.
From Costa Rica to Greece to Iran to Japan to Nicaragua to Pakistan to Spain to Tahiti to Vietnam, the Dallas Tornado blew through 38 games in six months across the globe.
Harvey recently recounted the trip with Alan Green on the BBC World Service program, World Football. The interview is available to listen to via podcast. The Guardian also recalled the tour. The team is set for a reunion May 14-16 in Dallas.
“I doubt anyone could replicate the trip again,” said Harvey, now the Oklahoma City University soccer coach. “I don’t know how anybody ever coordinated it. Playing in Burma, the next day we were in Sylan, the next day we were in Pakistan. It was a coordinator’s nightmare.”
The Tornado coach Bob Kap chose a team of 18 from Dutch, English and Swedish nationalities plus one U.S. player to form the team that would barnstorm around the world.
“It was more of a team bonding, team building, putting together,” Harvey said of the trip. “In some places, we were greeted really friendly. In other areas, not so much.
“I remember one incident that happened in Singapore where halfway through the game we ended up fighting with the other team. One of their players picked up a corner flag and was attacking our players with it. The crowd was trying to get into it as well. We were the Dallas Tornado, and we were associated with the assassination of President Kennedy.”
The team found danger in several of the places it went to.
Harvey’s team nearly got on a plane in Greece that was targeted by terrorists. Kap had taken the team to the Acropolis of Athens, and thankfully, the team missed its flight.
“The one good thing about the coach was he was quite an educator, and he wanted us to get some culture,” Harvey said. “In trying to get us all a little bit of culture, he perhaps saved our lives because we were delayed and couldn’t get back to the airport, and we missed our flight by about 45 minutes to a half hour. Apparently the flight was blown up by a Greek-Cypriot, and they were looking for a general. The general came out with us on the next flight two hours later. He was the target. None of us were aware, but once we landed in Cyprus, everybody was very aware.”
The Tornado traveled to Vietnam just as conflict in the Vietnam War was escalating. The team played the under-21 Vietnamese national team and the Vietnamese national team in Saigon.
“It was pretty scary actually,” Harvey said. “The thing I remember most were helicopters when we flew into Saigon. All you could hear were helicopters taking off and going more or less 24-7. We went on a helicopter down the Mekong Delta. We played an exhibition game in a camp. We played against some American servicemen. There were big crowds at the stadium. Wherever we went we were under heavy police guard.”
Weeks later, the largest battle of the war, the Tet Offensive, occurred.
The lighter moments of the tour included the team posing for a publicity photo in Madrid, Spain, in cowboy gear to represent the franchise’s Dallas roots.
“There’s wonderful stories from the tour,” Harvey said. “One of the things was the friendship we created amongst ourselves. We had young Swedish guys, English guys, Dutch guys, and about how we bonded and we formed together.
“When we landed in Tehran, it was the Shah’s crowning, and it was called the year of a thousand lights. Tehran was lit up tremendously well. Little things like that you remember.”
All that effort and the Dallas Tornado finished 2-26-4 in the 1968 season.
“We did very poorly to be honest,” Harvey said. “I was the only player to play in every game the whole 32 games. We were a spent force. We were very, very tired. We were tired, mentally and physically.”