USA takes on the Irish Free State
Similar to the Celtic match on February 23 but this time both the Free State and USA were newly back from competing in the 1924 Paris Olympics. As such, it probably counts as the first Free State friendly international, and perhaps the earliest surviving film of the USA playing away.
Anyway… it’s quite jolly, showing players dangling their boots from the horse-drawn carts that brought them to the ground. Their kit also demonstrates some fashion flair – shorter shorts than the ultra-baggy British knee-length variety.
The issue date (March 10) on the clip is incorrect. Other records show the game played on June 16, 1924, with the Free State winning 3-1.
Both teams did OK in Paris – the Free State just missing a place in the semis and USA winning going out to Uruguay, overall winners, after first defeating Estonia.
The other team (below, right) here did even better. The USA were Olympic rugby gold medallists, defeating France in the final at both the Antwerp games in 1920 and Paris in 1924 where the competition was soured by bad feeling and thuggish behaviour. The film (below) shows excerpts from the match but not the crowd trouble.
The contrast between the rugby final at the Colombes stadium on May 18 and the soccer friendly in Dublin less than a month later could not have been starker. It is a reversal of the old saying that football is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans, and rugby is a hooligans’ game played by gentlemen.
Rugby was dropped after the 1924 games so technically at least, the United States are still the reigning Olympic rugby champions of the world.
It’s something to reflect on as the Rugby World Cup continues in New Zealand and the rugby sevens version of the game is due to be introduced at the 2016 Olympics.
So there will be no sniggering at the back about Uncle Sam’s capabilities in Old World sports – varsity rugby games between Yale and Harvard attracted crowds of 50,000 plus in the 1920s.
Soccer also had its golden era in that decade – the American team, which still had goalie Jimmy Douglas from the Dublin match, came third in the 1930 World Cup.
Both soccer and rugby then waned in popularity – partly due to rows in governing bodies and the Depression where baseball and American football found easier purchase in redefining the American dream.
Before the recent resurgence of women’s soccer and its international success, the greatest American triumph was the 1-0 victory over England (it wasn’t a dud team – Alf Ramsey, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney all played) in Chile in 1950.
Which probably helps explain why the world record attendance (107,000) for a USA soccer match was…… in Glasgow before an appreciative Scottish crowd in 1952.